It’s been a while, which was bad news as far as I just ran out of time for the things that are my recreations.* But there was also good news, in that I did manage to finish my PhD along the way – so I have been Dr Mumchefoz since March this year – and much more recently, I have also been able to keep a promise, which is the theme for this post and restarting doing what I love – talking about food and cooking.
The backstory is that, in the depths of finalising my PhD dissertation, I snuck off on a modest break just over 12 months ago. It was for my younger sister’s 50th, when I kept a promise to go with her to be an extra in a movie!!! Not something I would have chosen myself, but we had a total hoot of a time – not least in the short driving holiday that we squeezed in because we needed to drive to Melbourne for the movie gig.
We’d never done that sort of sister thing before, so we promised to try it again sometime – and have just done so! We took about 10 days just following our noses around Victoria via interesting places to look at, eat, drink, and, of course, indulge in a little retail therapy.**
This image is from the place we stayed at in Maldon, Victoria – an old miner’s cottage that was easily the best accommodation of the entire trip, but not for want of some hot competition!!
The image below is the back yard, and about ¼ of the rosemary bushes that ran the full width of the back, but then also the full width of the front of the house. Look hard and you’ll also see lavender behind the rosemary. Not visible here, but there was also some of the most mouth-watering mint, and oregano – when we arrived our host had put a vase full of herbs in the kitchen, so all I wanted to do was start chopping and slicing!
Behind the tall trees on the right are about a dozen beehives, from which there was honey available – so I happily shared some of our fun tickets to buy that, especially since our host would not take money for the rosemary and lavender that I “pruned” for her.
So, what does one do with all the rosemary? Good question, but I can help you with that. Most important, if you have access to a garden like this one, preserve as much of the fresh rosemary that you can – it dries out very well, but does lose some of its aroma in that process. Drying also produces little sticks of herbs which do not usually re-absorb liquid in a cooking process – so they will tend to stay like little sticks in your final dish.
Another way is what I have done here: rosemary oil.
Prep: Wash your rosemary very well under cold running water. Lay it out on a tea towel to dry – make sure by patting it gently with the tea towel when you are ready for the next step. A glass jar with a tight-fitting lid is best for this type of storage – make sure it is clean and dry.
Fill: Poke one sprig into the bottle and measure the length that will fit, then trim all the sprigs to match. NB – use the freshest end of the sprig to bottle, as it will be the most flavourful. When you’ve stuffed the jar full, pour in good quality olive oil to cover the sprigs. Keep it on the bench to inspire you, but best out of full sun.
Store: Then you are into the ‘cupboard cooking’ zone – rosemary will keep almost forever, and can be used a sprig at a time in cooking pretty much any meat or vegetables.
Cooking: Use all of your offcuts fresh, which means anything up to a week or so after you have cut them. I just tie in a bunch and hang from the pot rack – where, indeed, I also have a handful of lavender from that same garden.
Rosemary is usually promoted for cooking with lamb, but I happily fling it around any red meat, and combine with citrus flavours quite regularly.
A hint I remember from years ago came from the nonna of a friend, who said you should always start cooking by frying up some garlic because it makes everyone who smells it hungry. Tick that one, after comprehensive testing over the years – but I now find rosemary even more appealing and use it the same way.
*And there was bad news in that our dear old Dad is having an increasing burden of age and ill health, although when he is more than three decades on from a near fatal stroke, it’s hard to lament that he is still here to suffer the infirmities of age! In the end, though, this takes up plenty of time for me as his advocate to the (breathtakingly labyrinthine) health system and government administration that comes with it. Sigh – we can put a bunch of folks on the Moon and photograph distant celestial objects, but painless childbirth or customer-friendly healthcare? Still getting back to us on that!!! : )
**If you are in Australia and would like a nice wander: I picked her up in Canberra, then we went the less travelled route to Melbourne via Cooma, Bombala, Cann River – where my husband and I had an enforced delay years ago when we nearly got caught in a bushfire) and an overnight stay in Lake’s Entrance – where I have never been but is now a fantastic memory after eating at “Awesome Fish and Chips” and drinking at “Bloody Good Coffee” – no I am not making those up!! Stayed the next night in Balnarring ad an epic dinner with two nieces (who are cousins, not sisters), and then headed to the Great Ocean Road. From there we went north to Ballarat, which is a blast from the gold mining past of Australia, with gardens that rival the best I have seen anywhere in the world; then to Daylesford and Maldon for serious eating and drinking options. To get home, we were brave and went cross country – last night was in Rutherglen, then we went to Tallangatta, Corriyong, Khancoban, Tumut, Jindabyne, East Jindabyne, Cooma and home. I did drive through those mountains before on another road up to Khancoban, and then on to Canberra, when I was young and rash excuse me brave. There’s been plenty of water under the bridge since, and I have driven on some seriously winding roads here and in other countries, but I have never before encountered corners that were signed for a max speed of 15kph – and we hit 5 of those in less than an hour!!!