Burnt Citrus syrup …

OMG – I’ve died and gone to heaven …
I’ve just tried my first batch of home-made Burnt Citrus Syrup and it tastes fabulous.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. About a month ago, I lunched at Popla, a new Bellingen restaurant, where I tried their home-made Chinotto Mocktail.  It was spicy, sour, sweet, smoky, citrus and delicious.  It set me thinking about an Italian soft drink I had tried when I was young.  So I tracked down a bottle of Chinotto and tried it – it was truly HORRIBLE!  When I looked at the ingredients, I discovered that it was entirely made of chemicals – not even a trace of the Chinotto orange after which it is named.

Surely with my abundance of ugly, misshapen citrus, I could do better?

After a few minutes searching on the internet, I had enough information to give it a go. You need sweet and sour citrus – I used orange, mandarin and cumquat with a few bought, locally grown pink grapefruit. For the spices I used coriander seeds, rosemary, cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves (sparingly) and star anise (also sparingly).  I chopped the citrus into chunks, popped them on some baking paper in a large roasting pan and sprinkled over the herbs and spices.

Then I slow roasted them in the oven at 130C (260F) for four to five hours. Your kitchen will smell wonderful, but the result will look a bit like a baking disaster. Never fear, it’s all good.

I allowed the citrus to cool and then split it into three wide mouthed sterilised jars, filled them with sugar syrup and waited for one month. This is the hardest part.

Then it’s tasting time … try the syrup in sparkling wine, with gin, soda or tonic water. Pop a piece of the burnt citrus in the bottom of your glass and eat it at the end when it’s a bit sozzled.  Amazing and a little bit deadly.  Tasting is quite strenuous so excuse me, I need a little nap …  after which I will post the full recipe.

My first Black Sapote fruit …

I’m only going to mention it one more time … we had the summer from HELL. But then the weather turned cooler, we had a minor flood and everything returned to normal.

Remarkably my garden survived on half the usual amount of water, which probably means that I have, in the past, overwatered. A lesson learnt.  Some more fragile plants succumbed whilst others like the Black Sapote toughed it out and even fruited tentatively for the first time.

Not knowing a lot about sapotes, I now realise that I harvested the fruit a little early. Instead of taking 7-10 days to turn black, it took nearly a month. And I wasted a few by cutting them open prematurely.  You pick the fruit whilst still green but slightly yellow, and when the calix starts to lift. Then you have to wait until the whole fruit turns black and feels mushy all over when you squeeze it – in fact when it reaches the stage that you would normally throw fruit in the compost – it’s perfect!

As each fruit ripened, I scooped out the pulp and stored it in the freezer until I had enough to make a batch of ice-cream.

I will shortly be posting my recipe variations for Black Sapote ice-cream, or mousse for those of you who don’t have an ice-cream machine, or can’t be bothered waiting!

 

Lilly Pilly time …

Three years ago I turned a section of the garden into a small native plantation, hoping to cut down on erosion and mowing, and to provide a bit of extra bird habitat.  Unsurprisingly, this year ALL the Lilly Pillys flowered and fruited abundantly and I panicked and was forced to pop several kilograms of fruit in the freezer.

Way too much fruit
Way too much fruit

To process the Lilly Pillys, first you leave the container outside on its side for a few hours to give the insects a chance to escape … especially the ones that bite.

Let the insects escape
Let the insects escape

Then you rinse them and pick out the rubbish – stems, leaves and bruised fruit etc…

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Then you either pop them in the freezer for later use, or …

You make Lilly Pilly Gin (of course!) Give them a quick blast in the food processor, and then put them in a glass jar with a bottle of reasonable quality gin.

Now I have to wait for a few weeks for the Lilly Pillies to infuse their colour and taste. Which will give me time to research Lilly Pilly cocktails …

 

Queen of the Night …

It’s been good news almost daily since New Year’s Day …

The Rain God smiled, and instead of useless sprinkles, we’ve had decent heavy showers, bringing the total this year to just over 60mm of garden saving rain.

Almost as exciting as the rain has been my very first Queen of the Night flower. This plant is technically a cactus but doesn’t seem to have a problem with Bellingen’s bouts of extreme humidity.

Nearly ready to flower
Nearly ready to flower

Each flower lasts for just one night, so if you forget to go out after dark to check, you miss it completely.

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This must surely be one of nature’s most spectacular flowers and well worth a nocturnal walk. These photos were taken with a torch and an iPhone in the drizzle. With the proper photographic equipment you’d be able to see just how delicate and impressive the flowers are.

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The next morning it’s all over, the flower has closed, and that night it starts to shrivel.

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The flower closes at first light

 

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The next evening it starts to droop and shrivel