Sunday, January 26, 2014

Australia Day 2014

Today is Australia Day.
We commemorate the day in 1788 when the First Fleet of eleven convict ships arrived at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) from Great Britain to establish the first white settlement in what was known then as New South Wales.
They had originally arrived a little to the south at Botany Bay a week before but found the site (recommended by Captain Cook) to have unsatisfactory anchorage, poor soil and little water.

In 1770 Captain James Cook had explored the east coast of the continent then known as Terra Australis and New Holland and taken possession of it for Great Britain on 22nd August.
Previous to that, the continent had been occupied, probably for around 40,000 years, by the Aboriginal people and had been known to Europeans, mainly the Dutch, from the beginning of 17th century.
While the Aboriginal people living here today see little reason to celebrate, what do the rest of us do on Australia Day?
The general consensus is not much. It's pretty much a lay back day, what with it falling at the end of summer school holidays and with a lot of the workforce still on vacation.
There are organized events across the nation with the emphasis on Sydney.
The co driver and I treat it much the same as any other day with no special activities planned.
But why not try a 'roo burger with beetroot relish to mark the day?

500g kangaroo mince
Half onion, grated
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
sea salt and pepper
4 thick slices tomato
4 slices of cheddar cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
4 soft burger buns
2 tbsp mayonnaise or aioli
4 leaves soft lettuce
100g pickled beetroot
1 tbsp olive oil
1. To make the beetroot relish, whiz the pickled beetroot with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and set aside.
2. Squeeze any excess juices from the onion and mix the onion with the meat, cumin, oregano, sea salt and pepper, using your hands. Form into four round burgers, using egg rings to help with the shape.
3. Brush with olive oil and pan-fry or grill for four minutes on one side. Turn and finish the cooking until done to your liking, but it's best served medium rare.
4. Toast the buns lightly, and spread each half with aioli or mayonnaise (add a spicy fruit chutney as well if you like).
5. Top the base bun with lettuce leaf, tomato, meat, cheese and beetroot relish. Top with remaining half of the bun, secure with a wooden cocktail spear and serve hot.
Makes 4

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hibiscus Time

After a long hot dry start to summer, we finally had 20mm rain over the last two days and the Hibiscus began to flower.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A January Update

Summer has been here with a vengeance over the last few weeks. The southern part of the whole country, from west to east, has experienced day after day of heatwave conditions with temperatures in the mid 40C range.
This comes on top of 2013 being the hottest year on record for Australia. Disastrous bush fires have accompanied the hot dry weather with ten of thousands of hectares of grassland and forest destroyed as well as many dwellings. Thankfully the death toll has been very low.
We have escaped the worst of the hot weather with temperatures hovering in the low 30s but very high humidity. We have not seen rain for weeks.
All this has been good for the grapes however. All varieties are looking good. The commercial growers in the area are keeping their fingers crossed that this is the vintage of the decade in the Shoalhaven. But we have seen all this before and then too much rain comes just before harvest and it's just another mediocre year.
Vineyards out west eg. Riverina,  have suffered from an unseasonal late frost, hail storms and now the heat. Yields are expected to be down 60% and the quality very poor.
Of course we have been inundated with tourists in the area over the six week summer holiday break.
But I won't have my annual whinge about this situation.
Suffice to say "roll on February!"
Last year we reduced our cattle herd to a manageable four. Obviously one of the bulls we sold had one last shot before he left and three of our remaining cows have had calves over the last few weeks. Thankfully they are all heifers so no need to get the ringer out. We are just hoping that the bovine anaemia that caused a 50% mortality rate with our calves in 2013 is not around this year. They are susceptible between 6 and 16 weeks so will take the necessary precautions and just wait and see.
The annual South Coast Wine Show comes up at the end of the month so it will be interesting to see how the wines of the South Coast Zone (Shoalhaven Coast and Southern Highlands wine regions plus wineries in the Sydney and other south coast areas) fare this year.
The co driver is busy quilting (and knitting) and is intending to enter some quilts in the local Milton rural show in late February. I am still contemplating whether to enter some of my wines.
 In the meantime we are concentrating on keeping cool and taking things easy.
"never do today what you can put off until tomorrow" is still the mantra around here.