The last few days, I’ve been visiting my Bayley relatives, most of whom I haven’t seen for six or seven years, at my aunt and uncle’s place near Geelong. They’ve got a hobby farm, I guess you’d call it, with a vegie garden and fruit trees and chooks and sheep (black faced Suffolks, I think) and a few cows (Belted Galloways) and olive trees and some grapevines. They make their own wine and olive oil and brew their own cider and my uncle makes a mean espresso (or so I’m told — I stuck to tea).

I have three Bayley cousins, and all were there with their wives and kids, along with a few other relatives from that side of the family and a bunch of their friends coming and going throughout the weekend. There were over a dozen people sleeping at the house, so as the last arrival (and a single person at that) I got the less comfortable of the various sofas. No worries, lots of fresh air and wine made me tired enough to sleep anywhere.

I took my camera but didn’t get any photos. Don’t know what I was thinking. I did come away with a six-pack of home-brewed cider, a bag of lemons, a couple of big leeks about to go to seed, a bagful of celery, a branch of bay laurel, and a bunch of cuttings for Vietnamese mint and perpetual basil.

The cuttings are a bit unhappy after the bus ride home, but I’ve trimmed them and put them in little shot glasses on the bathroom windowsill and we’ll see how they do:

cuttings in shot glasses on the windowsill

The perpetual basil is new to me, but I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s actually a kind of mint, I think, and has a minty-basily sort of smell. I don’t think I’d want to use it in the places I usually use normal basil (like in a tomato salad) but I bet it would be nice in Asian-inspired salads or soups or in ricepaper rolls, the sort of places I’d use holy basil or Vietnamese mint. It grows like mint, and is quite invasive, so I’m expecting the cuttings to do well, and I should have basil-ish tastiness year round. The Vietnamese mint is not perennial at least in this climate, so that’ll be summer only.

The bay leaves I grabbed are mostly meant for making stock and otherwise cooking with, but I’ve put a couple of little stalks in a small vase, too, just to see if they do anything. If they do I might plant a bay tree or two!

It may sound like I made out like a bandit, but I also took a few things down there to share: two loaves of homebaked sourdough (one seedy, one plain), a bottle of my tomato sauce, a jar of tomato kasundi that was a huge hit (and I have to send the recipe to a few people who requested it), some quince paste, and a bottle of prosecco that went down well with my aunt who doesn’t like sweet white wines.

On the Saturday night we had burgers cooked on the barbeque, and cousin-in-law A. and I made salads from whatever we could find in the fridge, garden, and pantry — my favourite way to cook. I thought I’d note them here because they were pretty tasty.

Salad number 1 was a Moroccan-inspired carrot salad: a few carrots cut into fine matchsticks/julienne, tossed with chopped mint and parsley from the garden, a tin of chickpeas, some raisins, and a dressing made of lemon juice, olive oil, ground cumin and ground coriander seed. Cousin-in-law A. sliced an orange and arranged it beautifully on top, which was a total winner of an idea as it really added some nice sweetness to the overall flavour.

Salad number 2 was red lettuce with asparagus, sliced peaches, tossed with a herby vinaigrette (I think it was marjoram that went into it) and topped with crumbled Meredith goat cheese and chopped raw almonds.

Over the 2 days or so I was sitting around eating, drinking, and chatting with the family I got a good bit of knitting done. I’m working on a summery cardigan using the Miss Jane pattern by Georgie Hallam at Tikki Knits — a local knitter/blogger who does some really nice simple patterns, especially kids stuff. Miss Jane is a grown-up-ified version of one of her kids’ knits, and is seamless with a modified raglan yoke.

Miss Jane cardigan in progress, in brown cotton

I’m using Fibre Natura organic cotton that I picked up at Morris and Sons on sale just before Christmas (as if I needed more yarn!) I’d describe it as a cool brown with aubergine undertones. I only have 10 balls, which is less than the yardage Miss Jane claims to need, but I’m going to make the sleeves shorter and probably lop a couple of inches off the body, which should all work out okay I think.

One more picture to share with you, which is a meal I had of leftovers just before I went away:

leftover meal of beans, rice, and stuff

You may recognise the ingredients from my Christmas salad. I prepared twice as much rice, beans, and pumpkin, then only ended up making a smaller salad when I found myself staying home on the day.

So here’s what I did with the leftovers: I tossed the rice with a dribble of leftover chipotle-lime dressing, piled on beans and pumpkin, then microwaved it for a few minutes. When that was done I topped it with salsa (homemade roasted-tomato-chipotle salsa from the Ball preserving book, made last summer), chopped spring onions, and crumbled feta cheese. Yum!

All in all, a good few days, and I’m expecting some of them to drop by for a visit in Ballarat soon. They’ve also invited me down for the grape harvest, which would be in the autumn and should be a good time. It was nice to reconnect with them, and I hope I see more of them now we’re living quite close again.