Saturday, October 20, 2018

Homegrown Linen: transforming flaxseed into fibre

Imagine the joy of hot buns wrapped in a linen cloth served with fresh butter on a table surrounded by friends and goblets of red wine.

Now imagine the comfort of flaxseed sprinkled on your morning oats.  

What do these two scenes have in common?  That's right, they come from your garden.  Flax, the very same plant that gives us flaxseed, also makes linen cloth.  Easier to grow than tomatoes, less work than carrots, and more versatile than eggplant.  

Flax gives us two harvests from one plant.  The seeds and the cloth - and yes, you can get both from the same harvest no matter what They tell you.  How do I know this?  Because I've been obsessing about flax for years and decided to find out what is really possible and what bits of advice are just superstition.

Spoiler alert: most of it is superstition.  

Flax is way more versatile than it looks.  You can get cloth from seed flax and you can get delicious seed from fibre flax.  

So now you know what I've been up to all these months.  A crazy adventure writing and creating a book.  

There are a few days left on my Kickstarter where you can pre-order the book Homegrown Linen: transforming flaxseed into fibre at a discount.  

We are hoping to have it available in stores in February.

If you want to order a book or carry the book in your store, you can find me at:

Crowing Hen Farm

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My first Falafel - success!

Inspired by this recipe, I decided to try making my own falafels.

I made a few changes, as usual.  On the whole, a resounding success.

1 cup of dry chickpeas
1 cup fava beans (lightly crushed and skins winnowed)

  • Soak at least 24 hours with several changes of water.

1 leek
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tbs flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch cardamom

Toasted whole then ground spices
3 pepper corns
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander

  • Drain the beans, mash them up with all the other ingredients
  • form into falafel shapes (which happens to be the same shape as a large spoon) and deep fry medium heat

Affordable?  Yep.  I can buy three falafels for a dollar in the shop, or I can make this huge pile of falafels for the same amount.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years Day 2016, No-Soy Miso Club

The second annual meeting of The Victoria Miso Club went wonderfully well.

We began by opening last years Chickpea mugi (barley) miso.  It had an intense rich smell, and a robust miso taste.  The colour was much darker than I expected and we failed to get all the air pockets out, so there were a few spots of mold inside.  But otherwise a success.

This year is two batches of red miso.  We used the same recipe for both, only the beans were different.  For both, we used frozen koji rice from the local Japanese food store.

Adzuki Bean 1 year miso

  • 1 kilo dry adzuki beans
  • 500g koji rice
  • 200g sea salt (no iodine)

Chickpea 1 year miso

  • 1 kilo dry chickpeas (organic)
  • 500g koji rice
  • 200g sea salt (no iodine)


  1. Examine beans and remove anything not a bean.  Wash.  Soak the beans overnight.  Rinse beans well.  Cook the beans in water until mushy.  The chickpeas I did in the pressure cooker in two batches, the adzuki on the stove in one big batch with just enough water to cover (add more water as needed).  The adzuki beans were ready about 2 hours before the chickpeas.
  2. Strain the beans - keep the cooking liquid - and mash the beans as much as you like.  We like chunky miso, so we just had a go with the back of the spoon.  You can make a smooth paste if you like.
  3. Combine some (about a cup) of the hot cooking liquid with the salt to dissolve the salt.  Mix this in with the koji rice when liquid is cool enough to put your hand in.
  4. Cool the beans so that they are cool enough to put your (clean) hand comfortably in.  Combine the beans, koji rice, salt, and enough water to make a paste.  If you remember (which we didn't) add a spoonful of last years miso,
  5. Put in vat, weigh down top, put in cold spot for 1 year.

As with last year, we relied heavily on Sandor Katz books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, for our miso recipe.  For a more in depth instruction on how to make miso, please see Katz. 

This year we are using plastic buckets to see how they work.

Affordable cooking:

Chickpeas were $7 this year, the rice about $6, and the salt, less than $1.  Let's say $14 for the gallon of miso.

Adzuki beans were about $4, the rice again $6, the salt less than $1.  About $11 for the gallon of adzuki bean miso.

To buy this miso in the store, it's about $16 a pound.  We made about 7 times that - to buy this much miso in the store would be around $100 - times two.

At a conservative estimate
Chickpea miso $100 - $14 = savings of $86
Adzuki miso $100 - $11 = savings of $89

That's not too shabby, especially when you consider we shared the expensive $25 between all the miso club members.  

Anyone who says you can't eat healthy on a budget hasn't made miso.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Garlic mung bean soup - comfort for a cold

Just writing this here before I forget.  Made it this morning with all the things I thought would be good for healing a cold.  Recipe by intuition.  Very tasty.  

Mung beans
Garlic - add lots of garlic, then add a couple cloves more
green chili pepper (finely chopped)
turmeric - not too much or it overpowers the dish

  • rinse the mung beans and leave them to soak while you get the rest ready
  • Dry fry the cumin until fragrant.  Crush the spice and put to one side
  • Chop the garlic fine and fry on medium low with the ghee.
  • Add the green chili, cumin and tumeric (NOT the salt) to the garlic, stir for a few moments.
  • Drain the beans, add them to the garlic and spice.  Add water to cover beans.  Bring to boil and simmer until beans are mushy.  Don't add too much water at first.  It's nicer if the soup isn't too watery.  But keep an eye on it and add water as needed.
  • Now you can add the salt.  Adding the salt earlier makes it longer for the beans to cook.  Salt to taste.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An excellent sweet 'mango' chutney - sans mangos

No photos today, just a quick recipe before I forget how to make this amazing condiment.

A couple of weeks ago, a branch from an apple tree broke because the apples on it were too heavy.  Unfortunately, the apples weren't ripe yet.  Then I remembered about this Victorian recipe I read for mango chutney, only it didn't have a single mango in it.  Instead, it had unripe apples.  Perfect!

Based loosely on recipe 392 of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, I had to make a few changes.  I have a tender place in my heart for anyone who applies garlic by the quarter pound, I must admit that some of the other ingredient quantities were a bit unusual to the modern taste.  So changes were made to method and quantities but without Mrs B's little book, I wouldn't have thought to make such a scrummy chutney.

Here's a little note that Mrs Beeton gives regarding her version of the recipe:

This recipe was given by a native to an English Lady, who had long been a resident in India, and who, since her return to her native country, has become quite celebrated amongst her friends for the excellence of this Eastern relish.

Sweet "Mango" Chutney

All ingredients are approximate

3 large onions
drizzle olive oil
2 Tbs mustard seed
1 Tbs powdered ginger
4 dry chilies lightly crushed (seeds included)
a large handful of garlic
At least 6 unripe apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks less than 1 inch cubed.
1 cup raisins
2 cups apple cider vinegar or equivalent
1 to 2 cups of sugar
boiling water
2 Tbs salt

  • Chop the onions into about 1/2 inch chunks, in a large heavy bottom pot, fry onions on medium-low with olive oil until transparent
  • add mustard seed, ginger, chili and garlic to the onions, stir well, cook about one min
  • add apples, raisons and vinegar to the onion mix, bring to boil and then turn off heat
  • Mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of boiling water to make a syrup.  Mix until sugar is dissolved
  • Add syrup and salt to the apples.  Mix well and bring back to a boil.  Taste and add more sugar as necessary.  Boil on high for about 5 to 15 min or until enough liquid has evaporated.  Mixture will thicken as it cools.
  • Place into washed (and if you like, sterilized) jars, seal with lid as per normal.  Because of the spices, salt and sugar, I didn't heat process these jars.  Mrs B never did, she just tightly wrapped the mouth of the jars with sheep bladders.  But as sheep bladders are hard to come by these days, so it's up to you to know how to safely can your food.  If you have any doubt, keep it in the fridge.

Affordable: Apples would have gone to waste as they fell off the tree far too early to ripen on their own.  Onions are from the garden.  That leaves the spices, raisins and sugar - so... totally guessing, let's pretend it's about $2 for this.  It made 6 and a half 8 oz jars full, which makes it 30 cents per jar.  This tastes almost identical to an English apple chutney I bought from the store once upon a time, which cost $8 for the same size.  That's a savings of $7.70 cents.  NICE!

To make it Vegan Friendly, you need to replace the sugar with a vegan friendly sweetener, and to be careful not to harm any worms that are probably living in your apples, thus causing them to fall before they were fully ripe.