Kitchen Scraps – A Virtuous Cycle

My previous post covered a great option for saving kitchen scraps from landfill with a community based deposit system called ShareWaste. In the absence of a council collection ShareWaste is one option but another way of directing food waste away from landfill is to privately organise a food waste bin collection for your house or band together with your neighbours and split the cost with a shared bin. This may be an expensive option but easy if you want to do something positive but not have to think about it too much. If you are fortunate to have a garden and have a little time to play with waste then consider composting or start using a Bokashi bin or worm farm and improve the quality of your garden beds and plant growth with free home made mulch and fertilizer. Bokashi bins are a fermentation process that turns your kitchen waste into a rich soil conditioner while a tap at the base of the bin also allows harvesting of a rich liquid fertilizers every 2 or 3 days. Bokashi bins are great for dealing with citrus, onions skins and meat; the sort of food waste that isn’t conducive to worm farms and they can also be used indoors. Bokashi bins are available from Bunnings ($39 – $59 depending on size) or from Bokashi Composting AustraliaHungry Bin, a continuous flow worm farm is a neat, easy to use system for converting your kitchen scraps to quality liquid and worm casting fertilizer. Hungry Bin, about the size of a small wheelie bin, can easily fit in a small garden, patio or on a balcony provided you have a shady position; worms don’t like the heat of direct sun. You can buy this system online from wormlovers.com.au. There are lots of ways to create a virtuous cycle for your food scraps even if you don’t have a green thumb. Consider sharing your valuable fertilizer with others, swapping it for some home-grown vegies.

 




Give Kitchen Scraps New Life With ShareWaste

I live in an apartment and love cooking, so every time I trim or peel fruit and vegetables I seem to generate an enormous amount of potential compost that ends up in landfill. I find this troubling.  Apartment dwellers are the worst recyclers; pizza boxes with the odd slice of pizza are routinely found in the paper recycling dumpster not to mention all kinds of plastic and polystyrene packaging. I’m not sure why this is so and efforts to educate with glossy, cheerful instruction posters and newsletters have not improved behaviour. It is not surprising then that body corporates are reluctant to add another contaminated waste problem by including a food waste bin in communal rubbish rooms. Some suburban councils are dealing with the burden of food waste in landfill by collecting or at least trialling the collection of dedicated food waste bins from kerbsides which is great. However, apartment dense inner city councils are reluctant to go that route because of the contamination problems experienced. A wonderful option for those of you who live in apartments and actively want to do something about recycling your food waste is ShareWaste. ShareWaste is a community initiative where people who have garden space can offer those that don’t a place to bring their kitchen scraps to be composted.  ShareWaste brings the two parties together in your neighbourhood. Taking a bucket of scraps to a neighbourhood site should not be seen as too onerous. It can be done as part of your weekend walking or riding exercise regime and it might be a great way to meet people in your community. Think of the cities in Europe where people have  to routinely do this for all their waste, general kitchen rubbish included. In some European cities bottle bins, general rubbish dumpsters, waste paper and plastics dumpsters are all in different locations too. We have it pretty easy in Australia but for how much longer? Just as water restrictions taught us to be more careful and self reliant with household water, ShareWaste is a way of empowering citizens to get on with the business of reducing waste and greenhouse gases. Food businesses too have been in on the act not only with food waste recycling (LifeCycle coffee ground waste to mushroom growers) but also with schemes that move surplus food from one business to another(Yume) or make surplus food available to community markets (Lentil As Anything’s Inconvenience Store) and to charities (Ozharvest, SecondBite and FareShare).

The number of composting sites in Melbourne is rapidly growing, so you can easily be part of the solution. Check out ShareWaste online or their easy to use App, sign up and then contact your nearest deposit house by email. Clicking on the house symbol on the Melbourne site map tells you what each active composter is willing to accept (anything but citrus and onions, only eggshells, no meat etc). Some want food for worm farms, so ShareWaste could be seem as a food delivery App for hungry earthworms.  Sharing is caring with ShareWaste.

City compost app

Would you become a compost donor?♻️ShareWaste is the new app that’s connecting people and turning food waste into a nutrient rich resource #sharewaste #compost #nowaste

Posted by Gardening Australia on Thursday, October 18, 2018

 

ShareWaste 💚 Melbourne

Did you know that ShareWaste community in Melbourne is one of the most active?We really 💚 Melbourne.Our ShareWaste hosts are people with backyards, chicken keepers, community gardens, farms and even small businesses.Be part of the solution with ShareWasteTom & Eli—–Let people know about ShareWaste and help them make more soil for their garden or recycle their food scraps😀—–www.ShareWaste.com

Posted by ShareWaste on Tuesday, October 2, 2018

 

 




The Secret To Cooking And Eating In Croatia

It might be hard to imagine that gutting sardines, anchovies and mackerel makes for a great holiday experience but I need to put it in perspective. First put yourself in the UNESCO world heritage island town of Trogir in Dalmatia, in the little 13th C palazzo of celebrity home cook, Tatjana Ciciliani. You have just returned from the local market where Tatjana has been prodding the freshest fish imaginable and selecting the best of the days catch for your lunch. These fish are just out of the water, still curved and taunt with rigor, eyes all a sparkle, so are actually not unpleasant to touch. Tatjana’s enthusiasm for great food is infectious, so learning to fillet fish is all part of the fun of cooking with her. And you are about to cook up a feast that made inquisitive tourists that wandered into the courtyard wanting a spot at the communal table green with envy.

The little produce market was full of great looking fruit and vegetables and in no time we are laden with stuff.

our market shopping

To start we had to deal with those little sardines and we soon got the knack of it; detaching the heads and pulling out the guts in one swift action and then removing the backbone by running thumb and forefinger along the spine.

Soon the sardines were crumbed with breadcrumbs and sesame seeds and fried to golden crunchiness. The delicate anchovies were prepared slightly differently, split and opened up with the thumb and the head and guts just pulled away, before being soused in a heated mix of garlic, capers, vinegar and olive oil, which saw them split in two, free of any bones. Capers feature in a lot of fish dishes in Croatia as they grow wild here at random locations in the limestone walls, largely evading human attempts to direct their establishment, although Tatjana swears by a dried fig as a substrate for seedlings. While two of us were dealing with fish another of our party was making a some seasoned salts by grinding salt with mixed herbs, parsley, capers and garlic for example, in a mortar and pestle. A pinch or two of these ready mixes were great flavouring for several of the dishes. Tatjana said that the salt desiccates these mixes allowing them to keep for days or weeks.

Two dishes down and we were soon onto cooking mussels with zucchini spaghetti, braising veal chops with caramelised onions, and stuffing peppers with sausage mince and barley and poaching them in a sauce made with tomatoes and a smoked pork bone for added flavour. Oh and did I mention there was a bean soup, olives, cheese, prosciutto, mackerel and bream, and lashings of wine –  rose, white and red. We also managed to just squeeze in some ripe fresh figs with lavender-scented mascarpone cream.

This cooking glass in Trogir was part of my tour of Croatia with boutique tour company, Secret Dalmatia. I expected a formal class with us lined up behind stainless steal benches with ingredients lists, bowls and knives etc. instead what we got was the fun, chatter, music and a little of the chaos of home cooking with family but with an unobtrusive kitchen fairy by the name of Ivana who whisked away dirty dishes and proffered clean ones at just the right moment. Secret Dalmatia was the best way we could have experienced Croatia and the secret bits were the added little gems such as the cooking class with the wonderful Tatjana, the peka dinner in an abandoned village with Ana guiding us in with the light of a mobile phone to the only furnished dwelling, or a seafood lunch under the trees at an oyster farm without another tourist in sight.

abandoned village by night

We also heard local stories, legends and historical narratives that were never boring. We could not have done these things on our own with such ease and comfort. Managing on our own, perhaps our memories would have included long queues at ferry terminals, shuffling into the old city of Dubrovnik with the cruise ship crowds and, worse still, indifferent meals; but Secret Dalmatia not only made everything run seamlessly but ensured we dined, and drank, extremely well. A cooking class certainly opens a window into the culture and welcomes you at its table.

Adriatic dreaming




Greek Basil

Have you been planting herbs in readiness for a summer of salads and tomatoes? Last spring I discovered the virtues of Greek basil and have planted it in a terracotta tub again this year. Over the summer when tomatoes are at their best I love to have the just picked freshness of basil on hand but doing this from pot grown plants on an exposed balcony means it is often a short growing period and keeping the herb well hydrated can be challenging in the heat.  If you have a large garden plot for your Italian (sweet) basil well and good but if you are space constrained then consider planting Greek basil instead. Greek basil has a really good flavour and what is terrific about this variety is the leaves, once picked, don’t seem to brown at the edges. Being a much smaller leaf it can be put on salads whole or as leaf clusters which look somewhat nicer than large whole or torn sweet basil leaves. The other virtue of Greek basil  is that it has a very long growing period. The photo above was taken in late April and the basil stilled looked fresh with no signs of going to seed, so I had plenty of great looking basil for a considerable time. I found Greek basil seedlings at Northcote Nursery.

 




A Taste of Croatia

I’ve been touring Croatia and apart from Roman and medieval towns and the beautiful Adriatic, the food of Croatia was a big part of the adventure. Croatia, specifically the Dalmatian coast, plays host to an enormous number of tourists that spill out of large cruise ships on a daily basis throughout the warmer months. While tourism is essential to the local economies it does have an impact on local life and catering for these hordes inevitably changes and narrows the food choices at eateries.  Despite all the bad pizza and indifferent pastas you can find really amazing food in Croatia if you start probing and give yourself time to wander away from the tourist strips. At its best, the food is market fresh and rustic, being simply prepared with local wine and herbs. Bread is always part of the meal and places in the countryside or smaller coastal hamlets will bake their own, sometimes with cornmeal or pumpkin seeds, which is a real treat.

My food journey started in the capital, Zagreb. Zagreb is meat-eater’s territory, so expect beef, veal,  pork and lamb and dishes influenced by Austrian and Hungarian cooking.  Zagreb is also home to the regional dish called štrukli. Štrukli is basically a savoury cottage cheese strudel which can be either poached and then tossed in breadcrumbs lightly toasted in butter, or poached, covered in cream and baked until golden brown.  I have to agree with my driver who enthusiastically said, I really don’t know which way I like it better, boiled or baked, so when I can I order both. It’s simple, a bit like a very light lasagna in texture and is nice for lunch with a green salad. I’m a fan (and I don’t know which way I like it better either) but as with any dish you can encounter not so nice versions such as those smothered in grated cheese, so be prepared to try a few.

poached štrukli in buttered breadcrumbs

Croatia does fire cooking extremely well and by fire cooking I mean the use of wire grills over charcoal or wood ash, or casseroles slow cooked in the embers of a wood fire. Look for restaurants that have a large kitchen hearth for cooking and a fire from which hot coals can be drawn aside to grill or bake the food.  Apart from beef and lamb carefully grilled over coals to smokey tenderness, including the ubiquitous ćevapčići (minced meat in sausage shape), slow cooked dishes such as peka and pašticada really stood out.  A peka is the domed metal dish or ‘bell’ placed over a dish in which meats such as veal and lamb are cooked, piled over with the coals of a cooking fire. The meat cooks simply in its own juices for 2-3 hours with potatoes and a few vegetables and wine added towards the end. Such dishes need to be ordered in advance, so plan ahead by ringing and booking your peka.

veal and lamb peka

Pašticada (pash – ti – tsada) is beef cooked in red wine; but the whole piece of beef is first marinated for 1 or 2 days in red wine, vinegar and bay leaves before being slow cooked with more red wine, tomato paste, dried prunes or figs and sweet spices. When meltingly soft the beef is served as a thick slice with the sauce and gnocchi or a hand-rolled pasta. Wild boar are occasionally hunted by farmers and end up in a pašticada which is sometimes shared by the whole village. I was lucky to eat this version at a winery on the Pelješac (Pel-ye-shuts) peninsula noted for plavac mali wine. A relative of zinfandel, plavac mali (Croation for “small blue”) is grown on the steep limestone slopes on the coast. There is a special appellation of Dingač where the grapes grown in a small area of exceptionally steep and stony slopes above the Adriatic are said to be ripened by the “3 suns”: the sun above, the heat and light reflected by the rocks, and the reflection from the sea. The results of this extraordinarily difficult terrain are called heroic wines for good reason. Plavac mali produces a tannic wine with high alcohol levels and fruity plum, fig and berry flavours and strong savoury notes. It’s a great food wine and a must with pašticada.

wild boar pasticada

The Dalmatian coast and the adjacent islands are seafood territory and fish can’t get much fresher and tastier than what is plucked out of the Adriatic (and its numerous fish-farms) on a daily basis, simply grilled and dressed with extra virgin olive oil. The Croatians are masters of the grill, using just enough of the coals to get an even and gentle heat for getting whole fish nice and crispy on the outside and succulent within. The most common fish available in restaurants is sea bass and tuna but there are also mackerel, turbot, John Dory, bream, dentex, hake, mullet, flounder, sardines and anchovies just to name a few.  Sharing a whole grilled fish is the way to go and waiters at good establishments  (not necessarily expensive ones) will happily fillet the cooked fish at your table.

cooking hearth with fish grill

sea bass cooked over embersOysters (a lovely local variety) and mussels are farmed near Ston where the gulf formed by  the Pelješac peninsula concentrates the salt in the crystal clear waters, and are frequently on menus. If you are an oyster lover book a trip to the farm and enjoy oysters on site for their just opened freshness. Another highlight from the Adriatic are the cephalopods; cuttlefish, calamari and octopus. Black risotto (crni rižot) made with sepia (cuttlefish ink) is a specialty of the region as are octopus grilled or baked in a peka. Octopus salad is also on many menus but you can’t beat the smoky tenderness of a whole grilled one.

grilled octopus

Seafood certainly dominates the Dalmatian table but the hinterland produces wonderful lamb and the region, particularly the Istrian peninsula, is famous for its version of prosciutto (pršut). While Italian prosciutto is sweet or mildly salty, soft in texture and delicately flavoured and the Spanish jamon is slightly drier and with a stronger nutty flavour, pršut is leaner with a still firmer texture and a salty, smokey flavour. Often paired with olives and a hard cheese it makes a great starter or wine bar nibble.

pršut

We are lucky to have a little outpost of Istria right here in Victoria.  Istra Smallgoods have kept their Croatian pork curing tradition, making a wonderful prosciutto near Daylesford and over the decades have established a thriving wholesale business using local organic pork. If you can’t make it to Croatia then visit their little retail outlet in Musk and have a picnic with pršut, bread from Trentham’s Red Beard Bakery and some local wine.

Vegetables don’t really star in Croatian cooking but are served alongside fish and meat dishes. Vegetables of the Mediterranean kind are frequently grilled and doused in extra virgin olive oil and Swiss chard is cooked mixed with chucks of potatoes and minced garlic. Simple salads are always on the menu. So what was the highlight of my Croatian food journey?  Eating local, market fresh, traditional food, simply cooked. I loved it.