Summer 2013/14

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CHEERS to our cherries 

Happy summer, folks. Yep, it’s finally with us after a wild and wet spring.

Summer’s my favourite season and I’ll tell you why. Tasmania is blessed with the best products provided by Mother Earth.

And summer is the season for harvesting our stone fruit ... apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums and, best of all, our cherries!

Tassie was once called the Apple Isle. Perhaps it should be renamed Cherry Isle.

Back in pre-history – well, back as far as the 1830s – when we were a mere colonial outpost of Mother England our little island began to build a world- wide reputation for the quality of our apples.

Some of the earliest apples exported to Britain were grown around Bagdad, which for a time was part of the municipality of Brighton. I may be wrong, but the term ‘bad apple’ could have originated from those days – because the orcharding folks at Bagdad, and their mates in the Huon and on the Tamar had some horrendous experiences, shipping apples by old clippers half-way around the world, across the equator ... without refrigeration.


Things got better – the invention of refrigeration certainly helped – and Tassie was definitely on the map in the 20th century as the Apple Isle. Then something called the Common Market in Europe almost wiped the Apple Isle off the face of the map.

But the orchardists persevered ... and our apple industry is surviving, though not necessarily thriving. The emerging cider industry and the sales of quality pure 100% Tassie juice are helping sustain our apple industry – but there are challenges from the Kiwi exporters and even from concentrated juice shipped from China.

HOW to achieve your goal

Hello again Brighton.

Tristan ThomasSorry it's been a while since I last wrote.
the World Championships in Moscow, which was a pretty crazy experience. I had to take a rain check on writing for the spring edition of Uncle Chris.

I’m keen to get back back to sharing fitness tips with you guys.

Today I want to talk a bit about goal setting.

This concept is, in my opinion, what either makes or breaks people trying to get things done.

I wasn't always a good runner and I remember growing up in Hobart. I used to see people on television as different to all of us and never thought I, as a normal and rather skinny Tassie kid, could make it.

Then I watched the Sydney Olympics on the telly and something clicked. I saw the great sports people of the world packed into the middle of the track at the closing ceremony and thought, ‘Wow, that would be fun!’

It was as simple as that. From then on I had a goal to
chase, a ridiculous one many people would have told me, but a goal all the same.

I spoke to my athletics coach, started planning, never let anyone tell me it couldn't be done and never gave up. That, I think, was the only thing that separated me from the many more talented people and that's what I'd love for you guys to think like too.

Not everyone is going to want to be in the Olympics, but whatever your dream or focus is, it doesn't matter, it's a great feeling to work towards hard goals. And achieving them is even better!

Start with small goals and build up. You can't aim to become President of Earth without making steps along the way.

On the other end of the stick, if your aim is to get out of bed each day you'll be incredibly successful at that but you'll obviously be selling yourself a bit short.

In terms of fitness, maybe start with a long walk a week, then if that goes well you could push it up to a couple of walks each week.

When you get over that add a five-minute jog in there. No more, just enough to start the ball rolling.

Once that gets easier, take it to 10 minutes ... and before you know it you're away.

You will not get fit if you don't have an aim. Each and every one of us is unique and we all need to work out what makes us tick.

Set goals that challenge you, but allow you to achieve along the way. Write them down and keep at it. Whether it's getting fit, winning the local footy grand final or even auditioning for the next X Factor, make goals, set targets and never be told you're not good enough.

Speak soon ... meanwhile go get ’em!


HINTS for a clean kitchen

Sanitise sponges in the microwave oven
Every few days pop your kitchen sponges in the microwave.

Wet them first, and then zap them for about 90 seconds. Just be sure you let them cool before you take them out. This will keep them fresh and free from bacteria.

Freshen the kitchen for just a few cents
Get rid of bad odours by boiling cinnamon and cloves in water. Or with the oven door open, ‘cook’ an unpeeled lemon at the highest heat for about 15 minutes.

Get your dishwasher sparkling clean
Fill the detergent dispenser in your dishwasher with powdered orange or lemon drink mix, and run it through a normal wash cycle. This will cut through all the built-up grease and grunge in hidden places.

When defrosting the freezer
If you have a self-cleaning oven, you’re in luck. Stash everything from the freezer inside the oven, close the door and get to work on the freezer. The oven is so well insulated that nothing should thaw for at least a couple of hours.

Dissolve saucepan gunk
It’s easy to remove burnt or stuck-on food from your pots and pans. Pour in a little fabric softener and let it sit overnight. Next morning, wash and rinse, and you are ready to cook again.

RIPE for the picking

cherry-creation-400Tassie’s growers produce about 5000 tonnes of cherries a year, and about 3000 tonnes go overseas. The overseas market prefers the larger cherries – those around 3cm across. They sell for around $45 a kilo!

We can buy the non-exported fruit so much cheaper – for perhaps down around $9 a kilo. And they’re so fresh – perhaps picked just hours before we buy. Especially when we buy direct from a local orchard. Head into the Coal Valley, up the Derwent or down the Huon to find a cherry grower who’s happy to sell direct.

There’s also an orchard near Sorell where you can pick your own cherries for around $12 a kilo. How fresh is that!

My cherry-growing mates at Somercotes, just south of Ross, sell direct, so if you’re heading north, drop in. Their season runs from early December to late February. At Somercotes, they grow (in order of harvesting):

Burlat, the earliest variety of cherries.

Vega, a large white-fleshed variety. It’s a pre-Christmas variety and is very sweet.

Chelan and Van, red varieties ripe for Chrissie.

Stella, the heart-shaped variety, is available in early January. It’s dark red and sweet.

Then comes Lapin, the largest fruit, sweet and deep red.

Simone and Sweetheart, also large and sweet, bring the cherry season to a close.


Fresh cherries enhance desserts. Try, for example, short-crust cases filled with custard, topped with pipped cherries and garnished with whipped cream.

I prefer to demolish my cherries straight from the tree, but here are some ideas for enjoying them long after they’ve left the orchard.



CHERRY chutney

550 g cherries, stones removed 100 g black currants
100 g raw sugar
150 ml red wine vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon chinese five spice powder

Place all ingredients in a pot and simmer while stirring until they become a thick paste. Remove the foam from the top while cooking. Fill sterilised jars while hot and cool while upside down, with the lid on of course, on a towel to create a good seal.

DRIED cherries

Take 500 g of cherries, cut them in half, take out the pips, lay them on baking paper on a baking tray in single layers and dry in a fan-forced oven at 50C with the door left ajar for 20-24 hours. If you have a food dryer, the process is so much easier.


Cherries are very low in pectin and need to have Jam Setta with pectin from Fowlers Vacola added to make the jam set.

550 g cherries, stones removed
400 g sugar
Jam Setta as required (information on the packet)

Add half the sugar to the cherries and bring to the boil and cook for two minutes, then add the rest of sugar and Jam Setta to it. Keep getting rid of the foam on top. Check for the setting capacity of the jam. Take a small portion of jam, put it on a cold plate and see if it set. If it sets the jam is ready to be bottled. If not cook a bit longer until it sets.


CHEAP eats . . . and so easy to make!

LEMON burgers

500 g beef mince
1 chopped clove garlic
1⁄2 bunch chopped parsley
3 tablespoons cream
grated peel of one lemon
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
pinch of pepper and nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. With moist hands form eight burgers. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fry each burger for 3-5 minutes.

Serve with home-made chips and garden salad.

GOURMET burgers

500 g beef mince 1 egg
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika pepper

Mix ingredients in a bowl and form eight flattened out burgers.

For the filling

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon blue cheese
1 small onion chopped
1 teaspoon each of ketchup, mustard and horseradish.

Mix and combine well and spread evenly on the meat. Organise meat sandwich style, to create four sealed burgers with a surprise interior.

Serve with chips and salad.

SAVOURY mince roast

600 g minced beef and pork mixture
1⁄2 tablespoon butter
1 large chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
1⁄2 bunch chopped parsley
100 ml milk
50 g old white bread soaked in the milk 1 egg
2 tablespoon white wine or verjuice
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon each of pepper, rosemary, thyme and paprika
3 boiled eggs

For later

100ml white wine or verjuice
1⁄2 teaspoon tomato paste
300-400 ml beef stock cream if desired

Place the mince in a bowl and blend the two meat varieties. Melt the butter and fry the onion, garlic and parsley, add the milk-soaked bread and mix into the mince. Let it cool down, then add wine, salt and herbs. Oil a baking dish and add half the mince, arrange the peeled and sliced boiled eggs in the middle and cover with rest of mince.

Bake at 220 C. After 15 minutes, pour 100 ml of white wine or verjuice over the roast and 1⁄2 teasp. tomato paste. Add beef stock. Reduce heat to 180 C for another 45 minutes. Refine sauce with some cream if desired.

MINCED lamb roast

600 g mince from a shoulder of lamb
150 g philadelphia cheese 1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
seasoning and pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1 chopped onion
1 bunch chopped parsley
100-150 g bacon rashers

Put minced lamb in a bowl with egg, salt, seasoning, pepper, paprika and cinnamon, and mix well by hand.

Melt butter and fry onion and parsley. Add to mixture and kneed it well.

Oil a cake tin, lay the bacon rashers next to each other, and with wet hands add the lamb to the tin, wrap the bacon over the mix and bake in a pre-warmed oven at 220 C for 50-60 minutes.

Slice and serve with the baking juices poured over it.

SLICED kidneys

400-500 g sliced beef or lamb kidneys
1 tablespoon oil or butter
1 chopped onion
salt and pepper
fresh chopped (or dried) sage, marjoram and thyme
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 glass white wine or verjuice
20 g chopped mushrooms 150 ml cream
chopped chives

Heat the oil or butter and fry the onion, add the sliced kidneys and fry, seasoning with salt, pepper and herbs. Remove from the pan, add the flour to the pan and mix in the remaining liquid from frying. Add the white wine and stir until smooth without lumps. Add mushrooms and kidneys back to the pan, add the cream and adjust the seasoning.

When serving, sprinkle chopped chives over the kidneys. Goes well with either rice, pasta or boiled potatoes and salad.

LAMB’S fry

Liver is very high in iron and should be part of your regular food intake.

400 g lamb’s fry paprika
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1 glass red wine
1 small can of chopped tomatoes some sliced olives without pips pepper and basil
salt (do not salt until the end as it will turn the liver dry and tough)

Season the liver with paprika and rosemary and quickly fry the slices in hot oil on both sides.

Remove and add onion and garlic and fry until limp, then add the red wine, tomatoes and sliced olives. Season with the basil and pepper and simmer for

10 minutes. Season the liver slices with salt and add to the sauce. When heated through serve with rice and salad.

CHINESE spring rolls

3 tablespoons oil
1 small leek
50 g mushrooms
1 onion
1⁄4 stick of celery
300-400 g minced pork

1 punnet bean sprouts soaked in ice water to make them crisp

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add finely sliced leek, onion, mushrooms and celery. Fry for a short time then take out of the pan to cool down. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan, add minced pork and stir fry quickly. Then add the bean sprouts (shake off the water) to the pork and fry very quickly.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon corn flour, add the vegetable and mix, then add 2 tablespoons white wine, sherry or verjuice

1 tablespoon soya sauce
2⁄3 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all, adjust seasoning then let cool.

Now make strudel dough: 250 g plain flour
2⁄3 teaspoon salt
1 egg

100 ml water
1⁄3 tablespoon good oil

Mix in a bowl and kneed till you have a smooth dough. Cover and rest for 30 minutes.

To form the spring rolls you have to roll out the dough on a good amount of flour, dust it with flour and keep on rolling till you have a very thin transparent dough.

Brush off excess flour and cut the dough into 14 cm squares.

On each square add 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Pull one corner over the filling, fold the two side corners to the middle, brush remaining corner with some water and roll up in to a cigar shape. Keep them cool as you proceed with the rest.

To bake them, heat enough oil to 190 C and deep-fry until cooked.

Keep them warm in 100C oven til you serve them with crisp garden salad.


There are many varieties of empanadas – which are essentially little packages of food covered in pastry. Samosas in the Middle East, Cornish pasties in England ... they are all part of the empanada family. This recipe is more Spanish in style and it was in Spain and North Africa that empanadas were originally created.

250-300g beef mince
1 tablespoon oil
1 chopped onion
3 tomatoes cut in cubes
1-2 chopped cloves garlic
1 capsicum in cubes
6 olives without pips chopped
100 g mushrooms sliced
1 tablespoon flour
100 ml beef stock or wine
1⁄2 teaspoon salt pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon thyme
1 boiled egg chopped

Heat the oil and fry the mince, add onion, garlic, tomatoes, capsicum, mushrooms and olives. Sprinkle with the flour and mix then add the stock or wine, season and add the chopped egg.

Let it cool.

Make a quick dough from

80 g butter
125 ml half milk half water 2/3 teaspoon salt
250 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix it all into a smooth elastic dough. Rest covered in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out and cut in squares, add filling to the one half of the square then brush with some egg, fold the other half over to make a triangle .

Put them on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Brush all over with the rest of the egg and bake for about 30 minutes at 180C.

BY POPULAR DEMAND . . . my favourite 9 spices


The flavour is like a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice enhances the flavour of most other spices. It can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, from cakes to sauces to meatloaf.


Caraway seeds have a sweet peppery aroma. Used in sauerkraut, coleslaw, goulash, potato and cheese dishes, bread and sausages.


Has a pungent smell. Used in sweet and savoury dishes and essential in garam masala, curries and other Indian dishes.


Fresh or dried, these can be used in moderation in most of our cooking. Removing the seeds and placenta (the white part to which the seeds are attached), will reduce the heat.


The bouquet is exotic and fragrant and the flavour is sweet and warm. Cinnamon is used in a multitude of dishes around the world – casseroles, rice dishes, poached fruit, cakes, pastries and biscuits.


The warm, pungent aroma is used in Chinese five spice powder, curry powder and pickling onions and preserves. Whole cloves are used in flavouring pickled meats.


Cumin has a spicy aroma with a slightly pungent taste. It’s a key ingredient in curries and Moroccan lamb dishes and in chilli con carne.


Fennel has a great affinity with fish, especially oily fish like salmon. It also complements pork and lamb. Ground fennel is used in curry powders and Chinese five spices. Crushed seeds are used in breads, cakes and biscuits.


An essential for goulash. I also use it to make a savoury rub for meats and chicken dishes – mix equal proportions of paprika, salt and pepper.

FRUITS of the season

apples-400When Adam plunged his fangs into that apple in the Garden of Eden he might have been giving into a bit of temptation.

But I like to think it involved far more than a hot-blooded dalliance with the lovely Eve.

I reckon he was sowing the seed of the idea that fruit trees are things of wondrous pleasures.

Today he’d get paid millions for such a fabulously salacious promotional campaign.

For fruit trees are miracles, you know.

You just plant ’em, look after them a bit, and they bear fruit for decades. How easy is that!

Setting up a home orchard is dead easy. And so satisfying.

Plus, unless you give into the temptatation of harmful sprays (not a good idea), you’ll know that your fruit have not been bombarded with cocktails of chemicals.

To set up a home orchard, your own Garden of Eden, you need a sunny spot sheltered from wind and with good drainage (not that boggy mess down in the corner).

To check on drainage, dig a hole, fill it with water and see how long it takes to drain.

If more than half an hour, give it a miss.

If there’s nowhere else, build up a few earth mounds of soil, including a couple of bags of compost from your local nursery (fruit trees are crazy about decayed organic matter).

Today’s gardeners have got it easy, especially where space is squeezy,
with fabulous dwarf trees such as Nectazee nectarines and Pixzee peaches that grow no more than 2m tall.

With these trees, the plant is the dwarf, not the fruit. And you can even grow them in a large tub.

Also worth checking out are the slimline ranges such as the Ballerina apples. They’re perfect for a tight fit. And you don’t need to fuss yourself with all that technical pruning stuff, because they need minimal pruning. Just cut back their short side branches in winter so two buds remain.

If you want to show off, check out the multi-graft trees (with more than one variety of fruit growing on the one tree). But don’t plan on growing an apple on a lemon tree. It ain’t possible.

Generally these multi-graft trees only grow different varieties of the same fruit.

However, now you can grow crossbred fruits, such as apricots crossed with plums, nectarines crossed with plums, and plums crossed with apricots.

cot-n-candy-400There’s one called Cot N Candy (apricot crossed with plum -pictured left, thanks to Flemmings Nurseries).

It tastes most like an apricot.

Another called Spicezee (nectarine crossed with plum)

tastes more like a nectarine.

There is a heap more of these crossbreds (the garden nerds call them “interspecifics”), you can suss out at a good nursery.

Before buying any fruit tree, think about Adam and Eve and all that temptation and procreation stuff and check with your nursery person regarding pollination.

Not all trees are self-fertile.

They need another nearby of a different variety of the same species to make sweet music.

Your nursery will generally have a chart that shows what goes with what.

Most trees can be planted now so long as you regularly water over dry times, or hang off until July when you can buy deciduous bare-rooted trees a little bit cheaper.

While they look dead, bare-rooted trees will quickly burst into life once conditions warm.

And remember, all fruit trees do best with a helping of fertiliser in spring and autumn.


If Uncle Chris has got you salivating over cherries this issue, take the cherry challenge and grow your own.

They’re not the easiest backyard fruit crop to grow, but the rewards are sweet.

You can grow sweet or sour cherries. Sour cherries are easier but the sweet ones at their peak are to die for.

Hunt round and now you will even find dwarf varieties.

The bad news is that birds also think sweet cherries are yum. So you need to net them (the cherries not the birds).

And to stop ’em growing enormous, many sweet cherries will need to be pruned in winter. So as well as cultivating the cherry tree, cultivate your local nursery person to get the right pruning advice for the particular tree you plan to grow.