Monday, 9 January 2017

Raspberries with labneh and watercress.

Original recipe from River Cottage Fruit Everyday Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

This salad is delicious as a starter or as a mezze-style dish. I have found the yield of labneh varies with the type of yoghurt you use. These amounts serves 4 but it works well halved or doubled.

500ml plain whole milk yoghurt
½ tsp s fine sea salt
2-3 handfuls watercress
200g raspberries
A good squeeze lemon juice or Raspberry vinegar
Sea salt, ground pepper
 Extra virgin olive oil, to trickle.
Make the labneh a couple days in advance. Mix yoghurt and salt and pour through a sieve lined with muslin. Flip the sides of the cloth over to cover and place it over a bowl. Leave in the fridge or other cool place for at least 4 hours until it is very thick. Transfer it into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
When you’re ready to serve spread the labneh in a thick swirly layer over the serving platter. Tear the watercress and scatter like an herb over the labneh. Then add the raspberries. Trickle over olive oil, lemon juice or raspberry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and serve with warm flatbreads or pitta breads.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


250 g Nirvana chestnut meal*
100gm fresh porcini mushrooms
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
15g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 stick celery chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 to 1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
A few sliced chestnuts or sliced porcinis lightly fried to garnish.
Heat oil and butter together, add onion, and cook until the onion is soft but not coloured .Add celery and sliced porcini cook till soft. Stir in chestnut meal and allow cooking for 2 minutes. Add stock; season to taste. Stir until boiling, simmer soup for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree in blender or with stick blender until very smooth.
Return to pan and add cream.( optional) Warm gently and serve.
To serve float chestnuts or porcinis on top of soup .

Chestnut meal is par cooked and sieved fresh chestnuts prepared ready to create either savoury or sweet dishes.
Chestnut meal can be used to make chestnut puree which is the base for many recipes. It can be used to replace cooked chestnuts where they are then mashed or cooked in liquid. Chestnut meal can also replace chestnut flour in most recipes by adding less liquid.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Top Quality Chestnuts

Nirvana chestnut orchardIf you want top quality chestnuts then there no better place to purchase them direct from a grower. By about now in the supermarkets and fruit shop you’ll see plenty of dull, soft chestnuts – the price like most local produce is well below the cost of  production .DO  NOT BUY THEM they are rubbish. When purchasing Chestnuts they should look shiny and feel firm and cool. Don't buy dull and crackly nuts because you will be disappointed.
Nirvana roasted chestnuts
At Nirvana Farm we have been growing and selling chestnuts direct from our farm for 30 years as well as  roasting them in our local village , Stirling. Our chestnuts are hand harvested every day, graded and placed in our cold room at 0c,Each weekend during the season Quentin cooks them in Stirling. As well as tasting delicious they are our quality control. When you purchase fresh chestnuts from the farm they are fresher and younger than the batch that are being cooked. All nuts are logged and sold in order
Chestnuts are fresh fruit and  are best used fresh. Store in the refrigerator crisper in a paper bag. They are best frozen after cooked and peeled. Frozen, cooked chestnuts can be thrown into a stir-fry or a curry. Nirvana Organic Produce also has dried chestnut pieces available all year, which can be used in most recipes calling for fresh chestnuts.
Roasting Methods:Roasted chestnuts
The trick to the best roasted chestnuts is to understand that you have to dry the skin while you cook the starchy nut and convert the starch into sugars. All roasting requires the nut to be cut, usually along the scar to allow the skin to shrink and peel back, and allow steam to escape.We use a pair of anvil secateurs to cut the nuts- its quick and easy.
Method 1. Oven. Spread a single layer of equal sized and cut nuts over a baking dish. Place the tray on the highest shelf in the preheated oven @ 200c for 20-30 minutes. Give the tray a good shake at half time. If you have an electric oven with a top heat element, use that to par-grill and singe-shrink the skins. This will speed up the cooking process but requires more attention.
Method 2. Griller. Select and cut the nuts and place on the griller tray. Requires attention with continuous shaking-rotating, 10-15 minutes.
Method 3. Traditional. Some European communities roast chestnuts with a special fry pan with lots of small holes drilled in the bottom. The nuts are roasted in the fry pan over naked flames /coals /gas and can be tossed /rattled to ensure even cooking. Variations of this method include using the BBQ grill section, on top of the slow combustion stove, in a jaffle iron or using a rotating wire basket.
Various recipes need peeled chestnuts: To peel chestnuts put a small slash on the bottom of the nut, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. As soon as the water is bubbling briskly, remove from heat and peel off the shell and inner skin. This is easier to do while hot -hold in a cloth. Don’t allow them to continue boiling or they will turn floury and be impossible to peel.
Dried Chestnuts: Cover them with water bring to boil, turn off and soak over night. At this stage they can be used in most recipes. 250 gm. dried chestnuts will reconstitute to approx. 700 gm.
The chestnuts are now ready to use in various recipes.
Chestnut Puree
Chestnuts (peeled or soaked dried)
Milk, water or stock
Put Chestnuts in saucepan, cover with liquid, and simmer gently until soft. Mash and put through a mouli or blend in food processor.
Can add salt or sugar to taste.
Chestnut puree forms a base for many recipes.
chestnut cake 003Chestnut, Chocolate and Orange Cake
Our favourite celebration cake from ‘The Biodynamic Food and Cookbook’ by Wendy E. Cook
Required: two 9 inch/23 cm, loose-bottomed cake tins, buttered and lined with baking parchment Oven 180C
6 large eggs
350 g cooked chestnuts puréed or sieved. (Either fresh or dried chestnuts that have been rehydrated can be used. The total amount of cooked chestnut needed will be 15 oz./400 g, which includes the 3 oz./75 g in the filling.)
225 g caster sugar
175 g grated dark chocolate
grated zest of I large orange
For the filling, combine:
275 ml double cream, whipped’
25 g icing sugar
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier
75g chestnut puree
For the icing
175 g dark chocolate
1 tbsp. orange juice plus zest
50 g unsalted butter
1. Separate the eggs one at a time, making sure there are no shell pieces left in.
2. Beat the yolks and caster sugar together until thick, pale and creamy.
3. Add the chestnut purée and grated chocolate (grating in a processor is best, as the warmth of the hand on a hand grater tends to melt the chocolate).
4. In a large bowl (copper is good, if you have one) beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff (here an electric hand whisk is helpful).
5. Fold the egg whites gently into the chestnut— chocolate mixture without losing too much air, but until the mixture is reasonably homogenized. The chocolate will stay in flecks.
6. Divide into two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes in moderate oven. Be careful when turning out on the serving plate as it will be it a little fragile (because it contains no gluten).
7. Sandwich the two cakes together with the filling.
8. Prepare icing by melting ingredients together over a double boiler. Pour evenly over the cake. Allow to cool and harden.
Sometimes I  lighten this cake a little by adding 1- 1.5 cups  of S R flour.

Thursday, 18 December 2014





Freshly harvested garlic is ideal to use to make a deliciously robust pickle.They are a great addition to other pickles and cold meats or served with nuts cheers and wine.

Use those annoying ones who’s stem fall off and you can’t plait. Fresh garlic are extremely easy to peel.Fill a glass jars with garlic cloves add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, a few coriander seeds and peppercorns, a sprig of thyme. Fill jar with cider vinegar and seal.Store in a cool place ready in 3-6 months depending on your tastes  . 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Country Kitchen –a special space

Being stuck in hospital for the past month (so far) ,with a broken leg, I’ve had plenty of time to browse the many glossy magazines around the place that abound with ‘new’ kitchen ideas – most look more sterile than the laboratories I’ve worked in! Their slick lines and industrial looks did nothing for me so I thought I’d invite you into our 1870 stone cottage and my  country kitchen to share what makes it a space I love .


Deb's kitchen


Step back in time far away from those streamline, sterile modern kitchens that you see in magazines to a utility room that rather than being planned has evolved. yes some may  think it’s cluttered but it reflects our lifestyle. It is a comfy country kitchen that always have magical aromas wafting from within with the added comfort of the wood cooking stove with its pot of soup and things baking one or both the ovens  during the cold months.When we came here the kitchen consisted of a sink –too low for even me! A burnt out wood stove with a mantle piece that I hit my head on, a electric stove with one hot plate that worked and a white cupboard  with wire for handles.This cupboard once stripped and with new handles looks fantastic.The wood stove was replaced firstly with an aga and now with a thermalux complete with hot water jacket.There is also the  gas stove for warm weather cooking. The rest of the kitchen has been made out of second-hand wooden cupboards and I’ve built the shelves and things out of mainly recycled timber and things.           

Onion storageonion storage         Useful toolstools of the trade tool rack
Nut crackersnut crackers Trusty tool rack trusty tool rack The blue box was once a candle mould.
the blue box was once a candle mould

Back in 1972 I built the tool rack from directions in a book “things to do in a day”It took more like a week or so. It has travelled with me from NSW to SA and graced various kitchens along the way and now has been a main pat of this kitchen for the past 30 years and most of the tools are in regular use.


  Our country kitchen is the main social hub of the house, the harvest kitchen,brewing room,preserving room, a place to relax ,cook and consume delicious food and to celebrate not only special occasions but every day .

Tool always at at hand  Home dried produce from the gardensdried produce         The bakerythe bakery
Worm glow of a wood stove is always welcoming.the stove Keeping the baby puppy and wine extra warm.keeping puppy and wine warm kitchen 006 (2) Preserving our tomato croppreserving tomatoes
Elderflower cordial elderflower cordial preserving our delicious figspreserving figs         Spring glut of eggs, no worries yummy Chinese tea pickled eggs.pickled eggs


Goodies from the Kitchen

Regular batches of sour dough bread.sour dough bread           Another batch of raspberry vinegar.raspberry vinegar
Celebration dinner, Roast venison with chestnut puree. roast venison with chestnut puree 
Mulberry wine in progress.mulberry wine Breakfast- poached eggs and asparagus. poached eggs and asparagus Garden vegetables ready for roasting.

vegetables ready to roast

Nirvana Farm Heathfield

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Rainy Day in the Kitchen

Themalux Stove   Our Kitchen is the perfect place to spend a rainy day. The wood stove chugging away always ready, hearty vegetable soup on the way for lunch. Its  a good time to top up the kombucha- the tea  today is a mix of rose hips,dried apple peel with ginger and a little green tea. Yogurt is next on the list, in winter it sits by the side of the stove until ready.

Cracking nut is another wet day activity. Today I cracked some macadamias to make  sesame squares these are great with coffee or when you crave something sweet.sesame squares they are quick and easy to make.

Sesame Squares

1 cup sesame seeds

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup nuts roughly chopped. I use macadamias, walnuts or hazelnuts because that what we grow but any nuts will do.

1cup coconut or rolled oats

Mix the above ingredients and toast.

Place 90g butter, ½ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon honey in a saucepan and cook til bubbling. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix well. Press into an oiled tray and cut into squares when cold.

I also cracked some walnuts to make walnut butter.Simply roast the nuts and put in a food processor until the nut transform into a paste. Great on toast!

Next up prepare dinner- this required waiting for a suitable window when the rain was not belting down so I could get the vegetables from the garden. At this time of the year there is so much to choose from to add to stews like celery, cabbage,broccoli, swedes, turnips,kale, chard, carrots ,florence fennel. I  settled on the last 2 to add to the lamb neck chops, onion and garlic. No real recipe here just brown meat, sweat off veg add all to pot, add some of our dried mushrooms, before a quick dash to the cellar resulted in some elderberry and apple wine to add. Then into the top oven for a couple of hours and then, adjust seasonings,gravy and into the bottom oven until dinner time.

winter oranges crystallised orange peel on cake Before I can put the stew in the bottom oven I have to remove the dish of citrus peel which is being soaked in preparation for crystallising and drying.The ones being dried just need rinsing and being covered with cold water overnight before being dried in the bottom oven.They are then blended so they can be added to porridge,cakes, bread etc.





Crystallised Orange strips

4 oranges


1cup sugar

1 tablespoon glucose liquid

2 teasp orange bitters

Extra sugar

Remove the skins from the oranges in 4 or 6 lengthwise sections,Place in an ovenproof  dish cover with cold water and place in a cool oven leave overnight .Drain and repeat next day but in a moderate oven 2hs ,drain and repeat  or place in a saucepan, and cover with water and bring to boil. Drain, re-cover with water and heat to boiling-repeat this process 2 xs. Drain scrape away the surplus white flesh from the back of the orange skin with a teaspoon. Cut skins into thin strips.

Put sugar, glucose and bitters in large saucepan with ½ cup water. Dissolve the sugar and Bring to boil, allow to simmer 10 minutes separating the orange strips carefully from time to time.

Coat a plate with sugar, lift the orange strips on to this and sprinkle with more sugar. Allow drying, turning strips occasionally before storing in an air tight container. Store 2 weeks.vegetable wildlife

There is always something interesting that ventures inside on the vegies. This little guy hitched a ride on the fennel! 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Food that Money Can’t Buy

freshly plucked Geese


Our Plucking Goose Party was held much latter this year mainly due to extreme hot weather. But now the chestnuts are harvested and sold it the time was  right to get this task done and secure a good supply of goose goodies.

We decided to make some goose prosciutto so we boned out a goose. After the breasts ,the neck skin was removed, the back portion was used as a roast.the rest of the meat was scaped off. The bones going into stock and the meat along with a little fat, onion,garlic,carrot and parsley was put through the mincer and then stuffed into the neck skin and sewn up.Not surprising there was mixture left over so these where made into rissoles for another meal.The goose sausage was then roasted and served in slices with roasted  vegetables from the garden.

GOOSE PROSCIbreasts curingUTTO

Place a mix of 3/4 cup pickling Salt, 2 tablespoons sugar 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon paprika , 1breasts curing 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano (Or seasoning of your choice) in a plastic container. Add breasts and rub in seasoning to both sides. Place the breasts on top of seasoning mix and place in the fridge.Leave for 3 days turning over once a day.

Rinse off spice mix and pat breasts dry. Place on a rack skin side down for 1-2 hours  to ensure its dry.



Insert a hook or some string and hang on a rack so they are not touching anything. Hang for 3 weeks. The temperature needs to be between 10-16oC with a humidity of between 60-85% . As there where european wasps around  we used a fridge which was mostly turned off but a couple of times when the humidity crept up it was put on its lowest setting for a few hours  to dry out the fridge a little.

breasts hanging   

They a now ready. On has been frozen for future celebrations (Everyday is a celebration!)And the other….well it tastes GREAT.

Goose processing may not be the most enjoyable task around but it well worth it with the reward of quality produce and knowing how and where your food is raised. Geese in particular provide us with so much, they are our grazing animals for their web feet tread lightly on the earth, They produce manure for the compost, they entertain us as they go about their daily tasks, they provide wonderful eggs and tasty meat neither of which can readily be purchased.  They reflect our lifestyle in the slow lane.