It has been a long time coming but I have finally found a few minutes to sit down and finally have a think (and write a few words) about this years Local Harvest Challenge. Looking back now (two and a half months later…eeek) I don’t think we have eaten that well since. We have had some amazing local meals and local produce, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think we have had so many good meals in one week at home! That may have something to do with the crazy FOOD Week here in Orange, apple harvest and the addition of our ‘future farmer’ no.2 who arrived two weeks early, just in time to see the end of FOOD Week :).
A recap of what I signed us up for:
- Don’t use the supermarkets this week – shop at local independent grocers, butchers and delis
- Shop at a farmers’ market
- Source farm-gate produce
- Buy cruelty free eggs (laid by happy chooks!)
- Source free-range or organic meats
- Go foraging! – eat edible weeds
- Harvest and eat food from your own garden
- Eat (at least) 5 Servings of Local, Organic fruit & veggies per day
- Dine at a cafe or restaurant with sustainable feature
- Cook with seasonal produce
- Cook with local oils or grains
- Sip on local milk or juice
- Enjoy local beer or wine
- Swap sugar for local honey (or stevia)
- Find out more about and try food preserving – bottling, drying, freezing
We managed to tick off all of the above. Fortunately for us we have access to a lot of this on a weekly and even daily basis. So it was not such a huge challenge. I decided as part of our Local Harvest Challenge, to relaunch our Local Fruit & Vegetable boxes.
And it happened.
Between the start of the Local Harvest Challenge and FOOD Week in Orange (approx. 2 weeks) we managed to put some box options together, find a few people interested (with the help of local business Canobolas Pure Health) and get the ball rolling. We did have a minor hiccup with our ‘future farmer’ no.2 arriving on the morning that our first box deliveries were meant to take place, so they were delayed by a week.
We are now 9 weeks in and our Local Fruit & Vegetable box deliveries have been met with even more excitement from locals and every week we are receiving more and more orders. All advertising, other than some social media, has been by word of mouth which is even better. We are so incredibly thankful for the support that has been shown by our locals.
With the help of Canobolas Pure Health we are now also including milk, cheese and eggs in our boxes. Milk straight from the farmer, Country Valley, cheese straight from the cheese maker, The Second Mouse Cheese Co. here in Orange and real free range eggs from Parkes locals The Happy Chook Co.
Although the Local Harvest Challenge always coincides with Easter, our apple harvest, and this year the Orange FOOD Week, this definitely did not deter us from getting involved again and it will not in the future. It is definitely something we would encourage everyone to do and maybe something people could do more often.
We are looking forward to next years challenge and what challenges it may bring us.
As most of you are aware, the weekends for us are market time. So we are either at the markets selling to our many amazing customers or recuperating somewhere not far away getting ready for the next day. They are a bit of a crazy time for us and we do not do a lot of our own food prep during these times. However we do support the local economy (other market stalls, cafes, pubs and restaurants) while away from home.
Part of The Farm Gate family were left locally this weekend however and even though we did not cook any amazing meals we did spend some time supporting our local community and local businesses.
Brunch for the day was porridge made from the oats that Lucas from CPH had rolled for us earlier in the week. We served it with local honey, yoghurt and left over fruit from our fruit and veggie box.
We then spent the morning at one of our favourite places, Cook Park. Probably the most gorgeous park in Orange and a perfect place for people of all ages. Not only are their beautifully kept grounds and gardens but there are duck ponds, play equipment, picnic benches, garden pavilions and my favourite place The Guildry Art and Craft Cottage. The cottage is just in front of the main gate off Summer Street and houses some amazing locally homemade arts, crafts, preserves, slices and cakes! Most of our visiting out-of-town friends and family call it the ‘CWA Place’ which I guess is a good name for it.
This trip we came away with a bottle of Tomato Chutney and a plate of Melting Moments which do not last long in our house with a hungry farmer and 2-year-old.
We also visited Racine Bakery that afternoon and picked up a spelt sourdough to get us through the weekend and a couple of Venison (Mandagery Creek) pies for our late lunch/dinner. Unfortunately my photos did not come out for some reason. You will just have to go and buy one yourself for a taste and look.
Daylight savings had us up early for the last day of our challenge. We made our way out to the lovely Milthorpe village, about a 15min drive out of Orange (Sydney side).
Breakfast was at one of our favourite cafes there, The Old Mill. Not only do they serve incredible tasting food and service but they have tables full of scrumptious cakes, macaroons, tarts and take away cookies and honeycomb. We shared the Semolina porridge with roasted caramalised apples and almonds. It was a taste sensation. YUM. We also took away a couple of macaroons but they did not even last passed the front facade before Mr 2yr old attacked them.
We then spent a couple of hours up the road at the Milthorpe Markets. Probably the biggest market in our region which is held twice a year. All of the proceeds go to local Milthorpe Public School and there is a great range of stalls, all 200+ of them. A great day out for all.
Thankfully Michele and Andy from The Happy Chook Co had a stall there as we had run out of eggs after Day 5’s fritata and we could not go another week without eggs in the house. So as well as a few other nick nacks we came home with a dozen of the most amazing eggs.
For lunch we had the sourdough from Racine with Jannei’s Fresh Curd with the left over of the muscatel grapes from our fruit and veggie box. Then once baked in the oven for about 5-10min we topped a bit of caramalised red wine vinegar. It was delicious. This was lunch and then again prepared for dinner.
Next…….a wrap up of the week and how our challenge went!
Thursday and Fridays are all about preparing for our Sydney Farmer’s markets. There was of course more apple harvesting to be done this week, but generally Thursday and Fridays are all about getting ready for Sydney. During harvest we often refer to Fridays as ‘no sleep Fridays’. Hopefully not this week though!
Other than the meal part of our challenge and supporting other local businesses we have also been working on getting our local fruit and veggie boxes up and running. We have today, finalised details and are starting the local box deliveries/pick ups on Thursday 18th April. We are taking orders and if anyone locals to Orange or the Orange Region are interested, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward the details to you.
Being the end of the farm week, but start of the markets week we have had a mixture of fresh cooked meals and left overs for Day 4 & 5 of our challenge.
Breakfast – Mix of toast, fruit, yoghurt and homemade honey toasted muesli
Lunch – Sandwiches
Morning/Arvo Tea – Left over Cinnamon Apple Cake
Dinner – Roasted Pumpkin, Rosemary and Pancetta Risotto
Breakfast – Mix of toast, fruit, yoghurt and homemade honey toasted muesli
Lunch – Sandwiches (again)
Afternoon Tea – Left over Cinnamon Apple Cake and Fruit
Dinner – Roast Veggie Fritata (with left over vegies from the week).
We also often use our local Salt Bird herb and salt mixes to add flavor during our cooking which we used for this dinner. We buy it directly from Salt Bird at our local farmer’s market but there are other stockists in Orange also. Check their website for details!
Today was all about apples at The Farm Gate. We officially started on our Fuji apple harvest for the year.
Breakfast was our Homemade Toasted Honey Muesli with Country Valley Natural Yoghurt and mixed fruit.
Morning Tea, being the first day of apple harvest we splurged a bit on Scones with whipped Cream and our Fig Jam
Dinner was a simple Bangers and Mash with steamed Brussel Sprouts. The sausages were Pork and Fennel, the mash was made with Dutch Cream Potatoes, the Sprouts cooked in a Garlic and Onion sauce and all served with our Quince Jelly! Half asleep, we all opted for (Non-Alcoholic) Hillbilly Apple Cider.
Dessert, it was only fitting to end our day with an Apple Cake (we will sick of apples in a few days) served with Burnt Caramel Gelato from the Molong Gelato Factory.
Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar – Recipe
(the recipe I was hoping to use is in a box somewhere, this one I adapted from a recipe from myrecipes.com is almost identical)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup stick margarine, softened
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup Philidelphia low fat cream cheese
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups chopped peeled apples
Preheat oven to 180°
Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 2 tablespoons cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl, and stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into a springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.
Bake at 180° for 50-60min or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm or cooled
Days never turn out to be exactly what you plan when running an orchard/farm and especially during the busy times of the year. After a weekend at the Sydney markets and being extremely jealous of all our customers who have had 4 day weekends, it was a bit of a slow start (and recoup) to the morning.
We started off our challenge by visiting one of our local cafes which is a real local hero. Bissy’s Cafe is a real little oasis in the middle of town. Not only is it a cafe, but it is a veggie patch, kitchen garden, youth education centre (also housing Orange’s Gymbaroo), animal farm, kids (and adult) oasis, local business supporter, bike hire shop and just a really lovely place to be. And although things have considerably changed over the last 6 months at the cafe, after speaking to one of the owners this morning, Fiona and her husband Paul have even more plans to expand.
After wrangling the 2-year-old who fell in love with the little oasis, it was down to business and brunch which by the way was fresh and delicious.
After brunch the rest of the day was spent on the farm. Apple harvest was put back to tomorrow as the starch levels of the Fuji apples were not quite ready. Instead, the garlic crop and planting was started, finally.
This weeks forecast is for a much cooler week than we have been having, so it seems our seasons are officially changing. To start the week I decided on an Autumn Soup w/Pork Meatballs dinner and for dessert a Strawberry Mess ( aka strawberry’s and cream with meringue) .
Autumn Soup w/Pork Meatballs – Recipe
This served 5 adults and a 2-year-old (I also served a loaf of bread but it was hardly touched)
*I made my own chicken stock using the chicken I will use over the next couple of days in another dish.
** Other than the risoni and the salt/pepper everything else was from our fruit & veggie box, local producers or made myself (ie bread crumbs from Racine bread).
8 cups Chicken stock (make your own or buy)
2 Carrots chopped
1 bunch Kale cut with stalks cut out
1 pack of Risoni (500gms)
800gms Pork Mince
2 x Apples peeled and grated
1 x bunch Parsley chopped
8 Mint leaves chopped
2 tablespoons of Lemon Thyme leaves (extra for garnish)
2 x Eggs
1/4 – 1/2 Bread Crumbs
Preheat oven to 150 degrees.
Make your Chicken stock in advance or use a store-bought one.
Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs together and mix well. Season as you wish!
Roll mixture in to balls about the size of a golf ball. Place meat balls on a baking paper lined tray and bake in the oven for approx 1hr. Every oven is different however so check one of your meat balls after approx 30 and then 40min to ensure they do not dry out. Once cooked, take out of oven and set aside.
Place you chicken stock in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add your carrots and cook for approx 5-10 min until carrots have softened.
Reduce heat of the stock and add the kale and meat balls in to the stock mixture and place lid on pot. Let cook for 10min or until kale has softened.
Meanwhile cook your risoni.
Once the two last steps are complete it is time to put your dish together. I place the Risoni on the bottom, followed by the meat balls, arrange veggies as you wish and then spoon over the stock and serve. (garnish if you wish)