In September, I was sitting in the piazza in Lipari, eating gelato and wondering where we should head for dinner. Three months down the track, here I am, sitting at the dining room table at our farmhouse on the Bass Coast, after an eventful New Year’s day spent with our house cow, Holly and her newborn calf, Frankie. My, oh, my! How things can change in such a small frame of time!
Currently, we are living an eight-acre dream, surrounded by trees and birds and not much else – far cry from our tiny apartment in Manchester. While we do miss our travelling adventures, a simple life is what makes us happiest. With help from my dad, we have established a plentiful veggie patch and have been devouring many a meal with produce that we freshly pick, minutes before cooking it.
We are enjoying an abundance of eggs, courtesy of our five friendly chickens, with milk is on its way after little Frankie’s birth.
And then there’s our buddy, Hudson, my Uncle’s ex-racing greyhound, who we have rehomed. He has the loveliest personality and is a perfect fit with our country lifestyle, enjoying the company of the chickens and our other little calf, Moops.
So that’s where we are at right now.
In between days of weeding and watering, mowing and pruning, feeding and walking animals, we get to spend LOTS of time with our gorgeous families. After 18 months overseas, it is so special to be a short drive from the people we love. We have a huge appreciation for home after being away for so long.
As my brother and I have both been living abroad, it had been three years since my whole family was in the same country for Christmas. It was beyond wonderful to gather together and celebrate at my Mum and Dad’s house for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. I spent the day in the kitchen with Mum, my sister and Nanna preparing our Christmas feast. The menu was rather impressive and we went all out to celebrate family and togetherness. Maple glazed ham, roast pork, roast lamb, lasagna, peas and carrots from our garden, roast potatoes, pumpkin, quinoa and rice salad, mixed green salad from our garden, glazed parsnips (an ode to our friends in England!)...the list goes on! An array of dessert was also up for grabs with pudding and brandy custard, fruit mince tarts, gingerbread, shortbread, fruit cake and my Uncle's famous pavlova! The following photos will give you an idea of how our evening rolled out.
Christmas Day was spent under the mulberry tree in our garden, sharing Christmas Eve leftovers with both of our families. It was relaxed, stress-free and jam packed with bougainvillea from the garden – exactly how Christmas should be!
There are so many recipes that I would love to share, but rather than giving you a whole bunch of Christmas recipes that will sit on the shelf until December, I thought that our chargrilled capsicums would be the most appropriate. They’re so easy to make and are the perfect accompaniment to a summer barbeque or antipasto platter.
I hope you get to enjoy these beauties during the warmer months, paired with crunchy bread and a good glass of wine in hand, surrounded by friends and family!
Happy New Year to you all from our little Aussie farm.
I haven’t given specific measurements for this recipe. I would estimate approximately ½ a capsicum per person if you were having it for lunch on crusty bread. If you were making it as part of an antipasto platter, three capsicums would make a nice bowl.
They freeze quite well. If you had the time you could make more than you need and then, before dressing them, store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature for a few hours before serving and then dress with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
The other thing to note is the cooking method. You want to blister the skin of the capsicum until it turns black and can then be peeled away. There are several ways to do this and I have given the different cooking methods below. We cooked ours in the extreme heat of the wood fire oven as we were preparing it for the roasts, but they are delicious simply cooked under a very hot grill in a conventional oven. Alternatively, they can be grilled in a cast iron skillet over a high heat on the stovetop. My Mum has even grilled them using a pair of tongs and the open flame of her gas cook top! Just get that lovely, charcoal colour all over and you’re set.
A few cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Grilling in the oven:
Preheat your grill to as hot as it will go. Place your capsicum in a baking tray and place under the grill. Keep an eye on them, turning them over using tongs as the skin darkens, and cook until they are charred all over.
Grilling in a skillet:
Heat the skillet on a hot flame. Place the capsicum in the pan and cook until black, using tongs to turn them over as they darken. Place them in a baking tray.
Grilling in a wood fire oven:
After your oven is alight and the flame is still rather large, place the capsicum in a baking tray and pop them at the entryway of the oven. Keep an eye on them, as they cook rather rapidly at such a high heat. Turn them over as they darken and keep cooking until they are black all over.
Once they are cooked:
Leave them in the tray and cover with some foil, followed by a tea towel. They will continue to steam and the flesh will become lovely and soft.
Once cool, peel and discard the blistered skin. Using your hands, half the capsicum and remove any seeds. You may be tempted to rinse the seeds away but don’t do it! You will be washing away all those lovely, flavoursome juices too. If there are a few seeds remaining, it’s totally fine.
Break the capsicum into long strips, place into a clean bowl and set aside.
Peel and thinly slice a couple of cloves of garlic into slivers. Toss these in with the capsicum and then drizzle it all with a good quality olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or keep in the fridge until ready to use. If the olive oil becomes cloudy whilst in the fridge, just take the capsicum out of the fridge and back up to room temperature. They’ll be good to go!
Enjoy with some crusty bread.