Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with burnt butter and sage sauce

After weeks of looking at the pumpkins in the wooden box beside my back door I decided it was time to do something. We have had a lot of soup this year and whilst I enjoy soup, I don't love it. We have tried many recipes in our house from roast pumpkin, to Moroccan flavoured to Asian inspired - we have found them all enjoyable but nothing to get excited about.

This year we had 10 kent/jap pumpkins that had sprung out of the compost. Fortunately they were ready before the frosts arrived. Last year the entire crop was a failure, planted too late and the frosts came too early. A tip for young punters out there: to tell if your pumpkins are ready the steam needs to go brown and break easily. Its a real shame when you think they are ready and when you cut through them they are far from a beautiful orange.

I have wanted to make pasta for a long time but always decided against it at the last minute due to a fear of failure. I think my fear was compounded by the likes of MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, where the judges have at times been harsh and quite critical of the contestants pasta making ability.
Zara with the pumpkin box

A few weeks ago on a MasterChef team challenge they made pumpkin ravioli - I tried to find the recipe on the website but failed miserably, so I have made my own version from reading my faithful bible (the Cooks Companion) and a few internet searches.

The instructions below may appear daunting but never fear - it is super easy and very rewarding. I will definitely make the ravioli again, but wouldn't recommend making it on a week night. A great activity for a lazy long weekend and would be a good thing to do with kids.

Roast Pumpkin and Ricotta Filling:
1 large pumpkin, cut into big wedges with skin left on - 1 used 450g for this recipe and used the rest for salads
fennel seeds
ricotta (equal quantity to pumpkin)

4 eggs
1 egg yolk
400 g of plain flour

Burnt Butter and Sage Sauce
75 g butter
20 sage leaves

Make the pasta: simply throw all the ingredients in the food processor and let it wizz. If you have a dough attachment - use this part. It took about 3 minutes for mine to become combined. It should spring back when it is touched and not be sticky.

Step 2
Knead the dough for about another 3 minutes and wrap in glad wrap and set aside for 1 hour at room temperature.

Step 3
Season the pumpkin wedges with salt, pepper and some fennel seeds. Our oven is not working at the moment so I put them in our BBQ for 45 minutes until they were caramelised and golden. Let them cool until they are able to be handled.

Step 4
Peel the skin from the pumpkin and mash. I think if you were being a real masterchef you probably would "pass" the pumpkin at this stage - but I am a home cook and way too lazy.

Step 5
Mix the pumpkin with ricotta, parmesan and egg. Taste and season if necessary. A number of recipes that I read on the net suggested adding bread crumbs at this stage. We didn't have any so, I just left it as is.

Step 6
Rolling the pasta: follow the instructions for your pasta machine, and make your pasta as thin as possible. This process was pretty entertaining and I am sure if Zara was a few years older this would be a great family activity. After a quick google search I found instructions on how to cut and fill ravioli. My first batch was a fail and they looked more like dumplings than ravioli - but  they tasted a treat. By the end of my third batch I think I could pass them off as restaurant quality.

As I made more of them I learnt to make sure I had dusted them with flour otherwise I found they got stuck to the plate.

Step 7
Cook in boiling water and remove once they float to the surface. It takes less than 1 minutes for them to come to the surface. Its really important that the water is rapidly boiling otherwise they get stuck to the bottom of the pot... had a few initial fails but worked out my mistake quickly.

Step 8
While the pasta is cooking, its time to make the sauce. Melt the butter, add the sage leaves and wait until it turns a "nutty" brown colour. Put the freshly cooked parcels in the sauce and enjoy!!!!

Monday, 14 May 2012

DIY : Press Dried Flowers

Its been a little while since my last post, as the weather is now quite chilly here in Brisbane and we are all in our winter clothes.  There seems to be fewer and fewer hours each day while tending to my baby and toddler.  The juggle between being mum, running a business and doing household chores does not leave alot of time.  I decided to take much fewer event and trade bookings this year so the balance between motherhood and business would be easier, and I am slowly getting more efficient with how I manage my time as we get into a better routine. Our darling baby girl is now 5 months, and older daughter who is almost 4. 

My eldest loves foraging through the garden to collect little blooms to place in her bedroom vase.  She loves finding even the most tinny little blooms, many of which are actually weeds and then arranges them into the most beautiful of arrangements.  We also love to press the flowers in books and then use them on cards or collages on home bound days.  So I thought I would share this every easy activity anyone can do at home.

This is a great little activity for anyone with little ones, or anyone wanting to save memories from a special bouquet given to them by a loved one.  I find that the more colourful the flower, the better the end result.  All the white or yellow flowers I have tried so far look bruised and pretty yucky.  But sweet little Pansies and Viola's are perfect.  You most likely will have everything you need for this little activity already at home, but here is what you will need;

- A handful of blooms (the more delicate the better as they press really easy)
- A phone book
- Acid free paper
- Second weight to place ontop of the phone book - i.e another book

Create your own press dried flowers;

1. Cut the stems of the flowers short to around 10-15cm.   You can even remove the stems for more delicate flowers like Poppies and Pansies, however I like the look of stems once dried so I ususally keep them on.

2. Open your phone book around half way.

3. Fold a piece of acid free paper and place the fold at the middle point of the book.

4. Place the blooms on the paper and gently push down so they become a little flat.  Make sure your hands are clean as we have acids on our fingers which can cause additional bruising to the blooms.

5. Fold over the acid free paper, and close the phone book.

6. Leave blooms for approximately 3 weeks, and do not open before 2 weeks to check their progress.

7. You can then use the blooms in frames or glue onto gift cards or presents.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The "Dogen" has new friends

On the only hot day this summer (a few months ago) we lost one of our chicken - "Nugget". At the time I was worried whether "Zinger" our other chicken would survive on her own - based on a quick Google and many references to chickens being pack animals and that on its own it would get depressed and die. So feeling guilty I and left "Zinger" to do her own thing.

Bert organised Zinger for a photo shoot
We decided to let her roam around the backyard whenever and where ever she wanted ... since we got our chickens years ago we have never had any issues with foxes so I am a bit laissez faire when it comes to putting them away. I think our dogs deter most predators.

She quickly formed a very strong bond with our two Border Collies - Mack and Paddy. Mack and Paddy have never shown much interest hurting the chickens other than stealing the odd egg, taking first dibs on any scraps that were placed in the backyard and rounding them up when they were bored. She even took to sleeping on the chairs on the deck and not her house. Then came the random laying.

If you have a "dogen" finding her eggs can sometimes be a challenge. And when you do find them, ensuring that they are fresh... you need: How to tell if an egg is still good?

Darcy chasing the chickens around the backyard
Last weekend when my niece's and sister were visiting I decided it was time for our "dogen" to have some new friends. So one week down we are now back to a pack of three. They all seem to be getting on - "Zinger" is struggling having to live in the chicken tractor. So I think tomorrow I might let them all out for a while.

The girls in their house

Darcy with Zinger and Macky

Do you have a chicken that is odd or thinks that its a dog?

Me with Zinger

Monday, 26 March 2012

Coffee for your garden...

Did you know coffee beans are just as good (if not better) for your garden than cow or horse manure?  Coffee is high in nitrogen which is an essential component for soil and plants alike.  With the number of cafes throughout the suburbs these days, it’s got me thinking we are throwing out a lot of useful nutrients which could be better used in our garden than landfill sites.

Cafes generally throw out hundreds of kilos (sometimes tones) of coffee each week.  With only a 10year lifespan left for Brisbane’s landfill sites, why not help out your local environment and use coffee beans to boost the nutrients in your garden’s soil? 

Lucky for me Site Café, located at Banyo in Brisbane are more than happy to fill my buckets with their coffee goodness.   I have now been using the ground beans both within our compost pile and also sprinkling on plants throughout the garden. 

For backyard composters and gardeners, coffee grounds provide a convenient and effective nitrogen source without the pathogen concerns of manure handling (National Geographic,  The worms love it, and instead of working with manure, I am now smelling the sweet scent of coffee in the air. 

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott of Washington State University recommends adding no more than 20 percent by volume of grounds in the compost pile, to boost the supply of nitrogen and ensure quick and nutrient rich composting (National Geographic).

If you only have a small garden or balcony garden, the coffee from your own coffee machine may be sufficient as a nitrogen source for your garden.  However if you have a large garden and compost pile, sourcing the coffee beans from a cafe would be better for your requirements. 

I bet most cafes would be more than willing to fill your buckets with their used coffee beans, as this is something they would be throwing in the bin anyway.  So why not next time you are having a coffee, ask the café if they wouldn’t mind filling some buckets for you to use in your garden.  I bought two 20Litre nappy pails for my coffee to go in, but I am sure any sealable bucket would be just as good. 

If you have already been using coffee in your garden, I would love to know how it has gone!

Happy gardening, Roberta

Friday, 23 March 2012

Z is for zucchini or C for Courgette

It's been a while since I last made a post... we have had a sick baby with tonsillitis, away for a long weekend to Jervis Bay and visited both sets of grandparents, not forgetting that I am back to work part-time (but doing a full-time workload)! But I suspect this is only the start of things to come now that I am a mother. My multi-tasking skills have definitely increased significantly in the past 9 months.

Now back to task...

As I align myself with being more"Italian" than "French" - we call them zucchini's in our house. Now this alignment is purely imaginary - we have no relatives of either variety in our family and I can not speak either language. However I could imagine myself living in Tuscany or near Lake Como in a villa, with a beautiful garden and a large table full of friends and family sharing delicious meals

This year we brought a four pack of Lebanese zucchini's. This time around I got them in the garden as soon as I walked through the door (I have  a habit of buying punnet of seedlings and forgetting about them until they are all wilted and almost dead - needless to say I waste a lot of money on delightful little seedlings that never result in produce). After less than 2 days in the garden our chickens (Nugget and Zinger) and destroyed half the crop - a good thing that they have those funny little furry bits on them once they get bigger (our chickens wont touch them once they are about 30 cm). 

After much contemplation and with Andrew reminding me that zucchinis are not his most favourite vegetables we decided to stick with just our 2 plants.  And this was a a very good thing, because we have had the most abundant crop ever! Turn your back for a few days and they grow to be massive. And the best thing about growing them is that they require minimal love and fertiliser (we don't add anything to ours).

This season the Hegerty house has feasted on stuffed flowers, zucchini soup, frittas, zucchini chips, and the most favourite of all - fritters! So far every version of our fritters have been different from the combination of ingredients to the way I have cooked them: some like pancakes, others shallow fried and some deep fried to crisp little parcels of goodness (not too sure about the health impact though). However they need to all be served with a minted yogurt dressing and lemon.

 So our top 3 zucchini recipes for the summer: 
  1. Zucchini fritters with feta and ricotta - the tip here is the split the eggs and beat the whites until they are stiff and fold them through. I combine the concepts from the  zucchini pattie and the zucchini and fetta fritters recipes from Stephanie Alexanders Cooks Companion  to make my own version (s) - based on the ingredients I have in the house at the time. 
  2. Mini zucchini pancakes with cream cheese and salmon - perfect canape or breakfast treat
  3. Stuffed zucchini flowers with a crispy tempura batter... yum! (Kitchen Garden Companion)
And a good standby for when you are feeling lazy and the warmth of summer has disappeared Zucchini and Mint Soup with Flat Bread. And even making the flat bread is not hard - Easy Flat Bread Recipe.

Until next time


Monday, 12 March 2012

Beautiful String Gardens

I have been a busy bee over the last couple of weeks, with the extension of my flower patch at our house to grow even more beautiful blooms and foliage for this year's weddings, in between baby feeds and social outings for the toddler.  I have found some interesting and unique old world blooms which I finished planting this afternoon, so now I can sit back and watch them grow over the coming months.

While looking for gardening inspiration on Pinterest, I stumbled upon this fabulous artist and I am in awe of his amazing plant creations/sculptures. I am still not sure of his name, however his business is called String Gardens and is work is seriously beautiful.

The idea is simple - individual plants hung in earth and moss ball masses hovering over the ground, however the creations he makes are truly marvellous and obviously complex using flowers, vegetables, trees for the hanging gardens.  Each are individual and different to one another based on the subject plant attached to the earth ball and how it is to hang above the ground.

I also found a tutorial on how to make these string gardens on Design Sponge so going to give it a go when I have a free moment.

Would love to know if anyone has tried making string gardens before and how it went!


All images sourced from

Monday, 5 March 2012

Growing Corn ~ Brisbane

We have only tried to grow corn twice now, and the last attempt was a sad failure.  The husks appeared, and within a couple of days were full of little bugs, so nothing we could eat.

This year however our crop of corn has been wonderful.  We planted them straight into the vegie patch by seed, and only added some blood and bone to the soil before planting.  We just bought a packet of corn seeds from the local Bunnings which was approximately $3, and only used half the packet when they were planted early January of this year.  Apparently for Brisbane climate you are able to plant between September-February, so will try my luck (although I am a little late) to plant another crop to pick in 2 1/2 months time.

I'm planning on making the corn and bacon fritters I found on shown below which should make everyone in the family happy.  Have included below some images of our corn which we picked this morning. 


Image from

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Oh faithful tomato! ~ Canberra

As I sit to write this entry it has been raining pretty much constantly for the past 3 days and my entire backyard is a muddy bog. Mind you my backyard is nothing in comparison to the flooding being experienced by a number of communities in southern New South Wales. 

This year I decided to invest in a variety of tomato plants – delightful cherries, trusty romas – including mini ones, the common supermarket make to a variety of heirlooms.  Over the years as my gardening experience has improved so too has our crop. A good thing about tomatoes is that they don’t require much love to prosper. This year we have been completely organic - no tomato dusty, fertiliser etc... just rain, good compost, lucerne and sunshine.

Unlike previous years I managed to get all of our plants in before Melbourne Cup (according to a colleague who is Canberra born and bred this is the key date, if you leave them much past this date you will miss a full season) and with our unseasonably wet summer we have had a bumper crop.

I don’t like to waste anything that we grow so over the past 3 weeks we have been eating tomatoes with every meal (along with zucchini, eggplants and celery). 

The top 3 dishes in our house have been:
  1. Semi dried cherry tomatoes with roasted garlic preserved in olive oil  - perfect in pasta, in chicken and I am hoping they will keep well for winter when all you get in the shops in tasteless tomatoes. 
  2. Tomato and ginger  jam (Gourmet Traveller - Feb 2012) – yummo with cheddar cheese,  bacon and eggs - I found though, that I needed to cook it for twice as long as what the recipe suggested
  3. Open cheese tart with heirloom tomatoes – perfect lunch or light dinner - used Donna Hay's Cherry Tomato and Basil Tart as the basis and then modified based on the cheeses, herbs and tomatoes that I had at home (every version so far has been different and they are all so tasty)
Semi drying tomatoes is so easy, just follow these easy steps:

tomatoes, salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary, knob of garlic 
  1. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half – best to cut them across the tomato rather than top to bottom as it will make it easier to remove the seeds
  2. With a teaspoon remove half of the seeds
  3. Liberally sprinkle with salt
  4. Stand them upside down on a cooling rack to drain (I left them for about 10 minutes)
  5. Rinse of the salt with water – I used a colander to speed up the process and a slow running tap
  6. Pat them dry with kitchen towel
  7. Lay them on a baking tray covered with glad bake – cut side up 
  8. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary
  9. Put a whole knob of garlic on the tray (still in its skin)
  10. Bake at 100 degrees for 5 hours
  11. Peel the garlic
  12. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to sterilised jars and fill with olive oil
Tip: to sterilise a jar – wash well and then boil for 10 minutes (including the lid); kmart has the preserving jars for $2 each

Have a great weekend everyone,


Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Vintage Wedding Gown Find ~ Brisbane

Your going to have to be quick for this one!  While op-shopping this morning I came across the most amazing vintage wedding gown at St Vincent De Pauls, Bay Tce, Wynnum.  It was just my luck that I didn’t have my camera on me to take a pic so I have quickly drawn a sketch of the beautiful gown (excuse my dodgy drawing - but it really is a beautiful gown well worth a look).  It appears to be a size 8 or 10 and has only $100 on it!! What a steal!  The dress is made from a very soft delicate bridal tuel with little flower lace pieces and beading sewn all over it.  The bust area of the dress is made from tuel with boning, and I guess you could say see-through.  The dress looks to be in very good condition except for a tear under the arm, but I am sure a good dress maker could do some alternations.  The colour is an off white tone.  Would be amazing for a bride who loveS romantic vintage dresses, but you better be quick, priced at $100 I can see this one going quickly. Run, run, run girls!!!

Happy shopping!


Monday, 27 February 2012

Hello from the Forage Sisters!

Welcome to Forage!
We are two sisters living in separate places in Australia, Cynthia in Canberra and Roberta in Brisbane. We love to forage – from growing our own fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to hunting through op shops and recycling centres to up-cycle pre-loved goods. 

Yes this is us as little girls feeding the local ducks.  Five minutes later
I would have been bitten and Cynthia would have chased them into the lake...

We both have young families and love to share the joys of the outdoors with our children. We are the modern urban gardeners.  We are not experts by any means but we love learning new techniques from friends and other enthusiasts.

We both juggle working with bringing up two small children (or on bad days taming lions).
Two of the most beautiful ladies who taught
us the love of gardening!

Roberta is a florist (Green and Bloom ) so her garden revolves around growing beautiful pretties to fill wedding bouquets and tables. While Cynthia is an amateur cook and her garden is primarily edible - still on the mission for building and growing the ultimate kitchen garden.  Cynthia's favourite Australian chef/cook is Stephanie Alexander and swears by the "Cooks Companion" and the "Kitchen Garden Companion". 
In our blog we hope to share with you :        
  • What is growing in our gardens
  • What seasonal produce we are using
  • Any gems we have found on our latest trip to the local op shops
  • The arts and crafts we are creating in/for our homes
  • What we are up-cycling
  • And the awesome free entertainment we have found along the way

We hope you enjoy our journey.

Till the next post.  

The Forage Sisters,
Bert & Cyn

Image credit : Photography by Karen Buckle Photography, Flowers, props and styling by Green and Bloom, Food and Drinks by Katrina Meynink - The Little Crumb.