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5 August 2010

Back in the kitchen

I forget if I told you that I'm having a two week break from my voluntary job.  It's been really hectic there all year with our move to the new building, setting up new systems, volunteer training and the rest of it, so when my friend and co-worker, Fiona, said she'd cover me for a couple of weeks, I jumped at the chance. Fiona is our Community Development Worker, she watches over all the hinterland neighbourhood centres.  I really appreciate her kind gesture as she has so much other work to do. But I needed time away from there to clear my head and I decided to use the two weeks to write. I've been doing that but as you all know, life never stops and there are many home tasks that need my attention as well.

I'm still working to my regular routine with bed making, bread, floors, washing up and all the other tasks that make a day here but I've also spent time in the kitchen, yesterday putting up pickled beetroot and on Monday making passionfruit sauce for the freezer.  In the midst of our summer here, when I make ice cream, there will be no passions on the vine, so the next best thing is to have homemade topping for ice cream in the freezer.

We had a bumper passionfruit crop this year with our delicious black variety really going overboard to impress us with abundance and taste.  For this simple topping I just made a weak sugar syrup, added just picked lemon juice to a lot of passion pulp, and froze the litre jar.  That will do us all summer and is a good example of how you can manipulate garden produce to be available when you want it,  and not only when it's picked (or bought).  If you don't have a garden, be on the lookout for seasonal fruit when it's cheap and fresh.  I make my annual peach jam from a box of bought peaches, not peaches we have grown.  Making these sauces and toppings is a simple thing and takes little time but it's yet another thing we can enjoy from our garden and another thing we don't have to buy.  Homemade topping on homemade icecream in the middle of summer will be a nice treat and I will be very pleased then that I took the time in Winter to make it.

Yesterday I picked the beets in our garden, cooked them straight away and pickled them in the afternoon.  This type of preserving is so simple.  It relies on the highly acidic medium of vinegar and sugar to preserve the vegetables and if it is stored in the fridge, it requires no water bath processing.

I use different ingredients every time I make this. It relies entirely on what spices are in the cupboard at the time.  Yesterday I used peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, celery seeds and bay leaves  from the garden, along with the white wine vinegar and sugar.  This concoction is heated up to not quite boiling point, I turn off the heat and let it sit there for half an hour for the flavours to infuse into the vinegar.  It's strained to remove the larger seeds and bay leaves before adding to the sterilised jars.


While it is infusing, I slice the cooked beetroot into a couple of jars and then pour the hot vinegar mixture over the beets to cover them entirely.  Lids on.  Wait till they cool and put them in the fridge.  Job over.

I even had a small jar of spicey vinegar left over to use in salad dressings.

And I've been baking as well. Walnut biscuits on the weekend and an apple and pecan cake which Hanno asked for after seeing an apple and blackberry cake made on TV.

Like all sweet treats, they taste better when they're shared so we sent a plate of these biscuits over to our neighbours.

And the apple cake, which was rich and moist, was served as dessert last night.  Apple cake, when the aroma of baking apples, nuts and spices fills the house, and when it is being enjoyed, is one of those home made foods that always reminds me of the nurturing role food plays in our lives.  It can be a plate of biscuits passed over the back fence or a favourite cake made because someone saw it on TV, or even the daily bread. Taking the time to bake them, using fresh wholesome ingredients and then sharing, make us stop to appreciate what we have and brings us all together again around the kitchen table.


  1. It is wonderful that you have so many passionfruit growing on your vines. We had passion vines popping up in one of our flower beds, and even though they bear green fruit, they never turn purple or yellow. They just drop of the vine and rot. Our vine also completely dies back in the winter. Do you know if there are any vines that bear inedible fruit or are we doing something wrong? Any help would be appreciated,

  2. Hi Rhonda, I can't wait for our passionfruit to give a good crop we got one lonely little passio this year, it has been a major problem for all fruit and veg as there has been strange weather and not good for the bees to pollinate so lets hope next time I can do your topping. With the beetroot,can this same method be used to store in the pantry as I would not have enough fridge room to store too much and many recipes say "store in fride".The cake and bickies sound yumm.Carole(ps enjoy the break)

  3. Hi,
    I have been reading your blog for quite some time now, and I have to tell you what an inspiration you are to me. I didnt have a mother figure when growing up, so I missed out on all the lessons of life that you give us all.I try to follow your ways, and have finally got around to starting my own blog to further encourage me to get off my lazy bottom and stop procrastinating! Here's to the simple life,the way it should have always been
    I just wanted to say thanks,all the way from Cheshire, England.

  4. This all looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Dear Rhonda,
    I too, bake and share with neighbours and friends. This often leads to recipe swapping and some great conversations about our families and food. Sharing and caring is what we humans can be good at, if we make the efford to take the first step, and offer our hand in friendship to our neighbours. I like the look of your apple cake!
    Thanks for sharing your blog. xxx

  6. i have passion flowers but no fruit

  7. Glad you are enjoying your time out gorgeous woman...I must say I miss you rather outrageously tho... I have a void at home too as the blissful Boog is away on school camp until the weekend. Lucky I have my codependant puppies and chooks for beetroot is one of the only things that didnt get decimated in the garden after the incident... I was wondering what to do with them... thinking I might make some of your pickled beetroot!...I gave my new neighbours some eggs yesterday as a welcome gift... we are synchronised!... thankyou for your kind words missy... im enjoying being you as well as myself... gives me so much more power and control!... Ha!... the newsletter is finally out to btw... love you madly... ms fee xx

  8. Hello everyone! Thank you all.

    anke, I think there are passion flowers that don't fruit. Check out this wiki report
    You'll need to cut them back in winter, then in spring give them some manure or chicken pellets and sulphate of potash (to stimulate flowers) and see if that helps. Good luck love.

    Carole, you can store them in the cupboard but you'll have to process them in a water bath first.

    Hi Sew-rae-me, we all procrastinate at times but if you let it control you, it sucks the joy from everyday living. It sounds like you're building a decent life for yourself. Keep up the good work.

    Fiona! HA. Call in on your way home if you like. We'll have a cuppa.

  9. Good morning Rhonda,

    It all looks and sounds delicious. Enjoy your break.

    Blessings Gail

  10. Hi Rhonda...homemade icecream WITH homemade topping? :) :) :) Yummy!!! That's a smart idea ;) :) When your summer arrives maybe you could share a pic, so we can see some of the fruits of all that work :) :) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  11. Hi Rhonda, I like to keep the passionfruit in the freezer too, even though I have to buy, they are quite cheap now. I slice a dozen, freeze the pulp in ice cube trays and then pack for the freezer.

    Even at this time of the year passionfruit yoghurt is a lovely dessert.

    Enjoy your break.

  12. Ah, no, no, no!I already have too much to freeze and can and now I want to try the beets and the passion flower syrup! It looks really good and simple. Do you mind sharing the cake recipe?

  13. Lovely post Rhonda - brings back memories of mum cooking beetroot whole and then peeling them when cooked, with rubber gloves on to avoid purple fingers :-)

  14. How wonderful! I haven't been blogging as much lately but we are still in full swing at the Stone Cottage. Right now I am very much into canning, just started doing it for the first time a few weeks ago. So I am going to be pouring through all of your food preservation posts!

    Hot Belly Mama

  15. That passionfruit sauce looks lovely, and how I agree about the baking. I love to bake as presents, and love it when my son asks me to bake as he has friends coming round (I have apparently upped their expectations when it comes to a wife - they want one that bakes!) It is so creative and so SATISFYING!

    I like to take advantage of fruit-gluts and buy trays of fruit which needs using fast, from a local fruit and veg warehouse. I can often get 6 - 8 lbs of fruit for £1!

  16. Just to add in response to Anke: yes, there is a large family of passionfruit, and not all are edible. I had a grafted passionfruit once. The graft died years ago but the stock keeps coming up from the roots. The flowers are larger and coarser than edible passionfruit and the flowers are electric blue while ordinary passionflowers are purple. The leaves, OTOH are smaller and narrower. No more grafted passionfruit for me!

  17. I made a passionfruit jam a little while ago, cooking up the pectin from the skins- an interesting way to do it as I hadn't done it like that before. I would feel lost with out preserving jams, jellies and marmalades. They are used for so many things, from flavouring homemade yoghurt, sweetening muffins, to being slapped on a tasty sourdough.

  18. Rhonda Jean, what's your apple cake recipe? It looks amazing....


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