Archive for the 'garden' Category

Three weeks in a row makes it a thing

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Have a random list of recent food-related doings:

We have hardly cooked this week, through a combination of being busy, lazy and tired. So not too much to report on the home cooking front. I do want to give a shout out to the delicious frittata I made last weekend, with leek, cavolo nero, chard, sorrel, mint, pine nuts, a bit of brown rice, feta and fennelseed. Thank you, frittata, you made several meals very satisfying.

 

I am keen to try making some crumpets today, since it is grey and drizzly. Thinking of using Elizabeth David’s recipe, as recounted here. (Afternoon edit: we made these, and they were extremely good. A++.)

 

Putting in some work now for eating in the future, we’ve been doing a lot in the garden this weekend. Yesterday we made a second, smaller raised bed on the east side of the garden, where I’ll plant out some soft herbs and greens. I also transplanted the rosemary from a pot to the back of the garden, and will move a couple of kinds of thyme, the oregano, and some lavender back there today (in between showers of rain). That part of the garden used to be covered by pointless ‘ground cover’ creeper, but very happily our landlords pulled it out when they came to prune the fig and lemon trees, so I want to get something useful in there before any remaining creeper has a chance to recolonise the space. I also picked up some seedlings of chicory, asian greens, spinach, celery and raddichio when we were at Bulleen Art and Garden buying a second compost bin yesterday, so they should also get planted out this afternoon.

 

And finally, last night I made some ginger biscuits, riffing slightly off this recipe. They’re very much an Australian nana-style biscuit, very simple, but delicious.

 

Ginger biscuits

115 g soft brown sugar
115 g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
3 tablespoons golden syrup
demerara sugar to coat

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, ginger and soda. Add the flour mixture and the golden syrup to the butter and sugar, and mix all together. It will form a soft, mouldable paste.

Form small balls of the mixture, 2 or 2.5 cm in diameter, by rolling between your palms. Toss each ball in demarara sugar, then place on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers. Leave a few cm between biscuits as they will spread a little.

Bake at 180C for about 10-12 minutes, until the biscuits are going golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, and cool on racks.

Makes about 32 biscuits.

Baked eggs with backyard tomatoes

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

This summer was the first time we’ve ever had a garden we could grow things in. We’d previously attempted (and eventually killed) many pots of herbs in many apartments, but nothing more. Despite this not very stellar record, I was smitten with horticultural lust when we moved into a house with a sunny back wall and a fallow garden bed. I went a bit overboard ordering heirloom vegetable seeds from Diggers, then carried through a major operation starting seeds of seven different kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peas, many different herbs, Italian broccoli varieties, and so on. And then, after preparing the soil (and filling quite a few pots as well) I planted them all out, pruned, staked, weeded, picked caterpillars and treated for whiteflies. It was a joy. It made me happy every morning when I went outside and checked how much things had grown, what varieties were flowering, which was the first to set fruit, which the first to ripen.

Like I say, it was blissfully satisfying. And I will do it all again next summer. But with one difference: I will start about three months earlier. I knew I was getting everything started late. We’d just moved to Melbourne, I was trying to catch up with things in the lab, we worked some weekends, I delayed putting in the seed order because was I really sure that I was going to do this, given my previously black thumb? By the time I committed and put in the order, it was the start of November. The first seedlings came up in late November, and I transplanted them outside in late December. This might have been ok in Brisbane, but Melbourne was not quite so forgiving. Our garden has been a lush, gorgeous, endlessly enjoyable paradise in which I have spent scores of happy hours working or sitting, but our first tomatoes only ripened a couple of weeks ago. About the same time, in fact, that I was writing an entry about how the autumnal weather was making me long for osso buco.

Since then, despite the recent rain and cold nights, a handful of tomatoes have slowly ripened, turning yellow or orange or red one by one, like lights coming on at night. Their texture wasn’t the best, but the flavour was excellent – sweet and sharp, each variety distinct. This morning we harvested all that were ripe, to roast for breakfast. We got one jaune flamme, several brown berries and lemon drops, a couple of black cherries, and about twenty incredibly tiny wild sweeties. The plants are becoming decrepit now, dropping brown leaves and looking exhausted. I’ll leave them in for another week or so to see whether any more fruit ripens, and if not then pull them out for compost. But even if this morning’s small dish of tomatoes is all we eat from this crop, it’s still been absolutely worth it. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve shown myself that my thumb is not entirely black, and I’ve gained hours of relaxation and pleasure. I’m without regret, though I have put a reminder in my diary to start the tomato seeds in August this year.

 

Baked eggs and tomatoes with sourdough and chevre

This wasn’t the prettiest dish, but it was delicious. I took our bowl of mixed tomatoes (probably the equivalent of about 25 cherry tomatoes), halved all but the smallest, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted in a smallish baking dish in a moderate oven (about 160C) until they were softened, about 15-20 minutes. I pushed the tomatoes aside to make a couple of indentations, into which I cracked eggs. Back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, checking frequently towards the end, until the whites were cooked but the yolks were still runny. Meanwhile, I’d toasted a slice of sourdough, and spread with some young chevre. I spooned the egg-and-tomato mixture out of the baking dish over the toast, and ate immediately.