First, thank you to everyone who commiserated and encouraged me in my time of loss of Kitchen Mojo last month. I’m happy to say it has nearly returned to normal. That is to say I’m having the usual number of failures rather than the dismal number I was having this time last month! It has been a battlefield here. We had a very wet start to January, followed by an invasion of thousands, and thousands of grasshoppers. They have nearly devoured my favourite herbs, citrus leaves, curry leaves and even my sapling fig trees. I don’t like to use poisons on my edible plants, for obvious reasons, so I have very reluctantly employed the ‘compression method’ my husband taught me.
Ick. But effective.
Well, let’s put it this way, I’m losing the battle more slowly than I was previously.
The next, and ongoing, battle was a bad infestation of scale insect on my 10 yr old Bay tree. Because of our heat here I couldn’t just spray with white oil and let it do the job. White oil will kill the plant at temps above 30C. So I had to strip all the leaves from the tree that had scale on them, while leaving the newer growth to help it recover. Then I had to spray the branches and trunk with the white oil, leave it under cover and out of direct sun for two days, then gently spray with soapy water and use a soft brush to wash it off. So far, it has worked. I am checking the leaves every few days and scraping the occasional scale off and tiny new leaves are appearing. When winter comes I will be able to spray it again.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen we’ve enjoyed a few nice meals inspired by the cool temps that came with the rain event. Leftover ham bone from Christmas made a delicious, savoury cannellini bean soup, along with corn bread made in my new cast iron pan. The cast iron pan is another battle I’m slowly losing, but I have not given up.
The seasonal fruit has been delicious this year, with or without buckwheat pancakes!
A wonderful new find from our butcher is ‘lamb mignon’. They use fillet or backstrap pieces and wrap it in bacon (their own) and skewer it for cooking on the barbecue/grill. Delicious.
And, finally, my creation of the month, as declared by my husband, is Chilli Cole Slaw. We have some medium/mild yellow chillies growing and so far the grasshoppers haven’t developed a taste for them, so I have plenty to use. I finely shaved two colours of cabbage, added the finely sliced pieces of chilli, then… wait for it… the magic ingredients… about ½ tsp each, mustard seed and fennel seed, finely ground in my tiny mortar and pestle. For a lighter than normal dressing I used organic, Greek yogurt, thinned with a little apple cider vinegar, whatever sweetener you like, and a bit of salt. The dressing should have a sweet/sour taste which offsets the chilli nicely. I used about 1/3 C for 3 C of shredded cabbage, but adjust it to your own liking.
Happy February everyone. May there be no grasshopper plague in your lives! Be sure to call around to Celia’s place at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to see what’s happening in the kitchens around the world!