Loquats

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Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica)  grow all across the Adelaide Plains. There is a giant old loquat tree around the corner from me on a vacant block that fruits profusely each year. The birds don’t seem too interested in the fruit and either do the passers by. Loquats are best eaten straight off the tree warmed by the sun. They have large seeds and not a great deal of flesh which I suspect turns people off collecting the fruit. The flesh of the fruit is pretty delicious with some describing it as a cross between a mango and a peach. I think it just tastes like a loquat and not like any other fruit. The flavour is more delicate with the skin peeled off.

I made a batch of jam and some loquat fruit leather with this lot. Other ways to preserve would be drying the halves like dried apricots or making a delicate loquat jelly. I also read that loquat leaves have medicinal properties and can be made into tea. While the loquats are supposed to be high in pectin, this time I used shop bought pectin to make sure the jam set. The loquats are quite sweet already and only need a ratio of 1 part loquat to 1/2 part sugar for the jam. Pick the fruit when yellow (orange seems overripe to me) and add in some underripe loquats to up the pectin levels if not using added pectin.

Loquat jam 

1.6 kgs of deseeded loquats

800 gms sugar

juice of one lemon

vanilla

pectin (optional)

Add all ingredients to a heavy based pot. Stir regularly, bring to a boil and then a rolling simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Blend with a stick blender if you want a smother texture. Put into sterilised jars and give a hot bath for 15 minutes.

Loquat leather

1.5 kgs of deseeded loquats

juice of one lemon

splash of water

Add all the ingredients to a heavy set pot, cook on medium heat for 5 mins to allow for some of the juices to release. Then get a stick blender to puree the fruit. Place mix on baking sheets on the dehydrator trays and spread evenly. Dry for 7 hours at 70C until dry to touch.

Wild greens pie

250 grams silverbeet

250 grams mixed wild greens – eg mallow, nettle, sour sob, fennel fronds, amaranth

1 red onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 eggs, whisked

180 gm block b.d. farm feta, crumbled

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 lemon, rind and juice

bunch of dill, finely chopped

6 sheets filo

oil for filo

Pre heat oven to 180C.

Cook greens in boiling water until wilted. Remove from water and squeeze out the water from the greens. Chop up them up and put into a large mixing bowl.

Cook onion and garlic over medium heat until soft. Then add it to the chopped greens.

Add eggs, feta, parmesan, bread crumbs, all spice, dill, lemon to bowl and mix well with hands.

Line a pie dish with filo, brush with oil, then add another sheet but cross it in the other direction, add the sheets in a cross pattern and oil the sheets as you add them. Add the greens mixture to the dish and fold over the filo pastry to enclose the mixture. Then brush top with oil. Stab the pastry a few times to allow for steam to escape while it’s cooking.

Cook for 40 mins or until pastry is well cooked through and is golden brown.

 

Allium triquetrum

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Allium triquetrum, also known as three cornered garlic or three cornered leek is coming through now. All parts of this plant are edible, its leaves, flowers and bulbs. It has a garlicy onion flavour and can be used anywhere you would use things like garlic chives or spring onions. No need to cook it, it can be eaten raw. Careful picking in public places as its a declared weed and will most likely be sprayed. In a few weeks it will be more obvious when its white flowers come through. This was growing along a creek.

Broccoli budda bowl

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I recently did a Growing Great Veggies course taught by Nat Wiseman from Village Greens and Steven Hoepfner from Wagtail Urban Farm. They both very generously shared their knowledge honed through experience running market gardens using organic methods. Well worth attending if you get a chance. The course was held at the Glandore Community Garden and growing in one of the patches was this gorgeous broccoli.

Broccoli is a favorite in our house and the whole plant can be eaten. The seeds can be sprouted. Leaves can be used in salads, juices or cooked. Stalks can be cut finely and used in stirfries or diced and put in stews and sauces. The heads can be chopped into florets and can be eaten raw or cooked in dishes like Gado Gado. The flowers are also edible. It’s such a versitile plant and fairly easy to grow through Adelaide’s wet winters.

A simple way to prepare broccoli is use it in a budda bowl. Budda bowls are a great way to put together simple seasonal produce into a nourishing meal. Braise the broccoli florets in stock, cook until tender. Roast some pumkin seasoned with oil, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Assemble the bowl by adding broccoli, roast pumpkin, wild or salad greens (mallow, chickweed, cooked nettle), saukraut, and cooked chickpeas. Garnish with dandelion petals. For a simple dressing put together 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

Orange and fennel chicken

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This recipe brings together all the winter flavours of Adelaide into a super simple dinner. Fennel seeds, orange and lemon can be foraged fairly easily. The hero of the dish is the oil that’s been freshly pressed from a friends family farm, bringing all the flavours together.

1kg chicken thighs

2 oranges

1 lemon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 teaspoons salt

2 large fennel bulbs

1/3 cup cold water

1 garlic clove, finely grated

2 teaspoons cornflour

Create the marinade by mixing together the oil, mustard, fennel seeds, salt, zest and juice of the oranges and lemon. Add the chicken, toss through so the chicken is well covered and marinate for a few hours or overnight if you can.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the tube bits off the fennel and then cut each bulb into 12 wedges. Place the fennel into a large flat baking tray and put the marinated chicken and marinade on top of the fennel. Toss the marinade through the fennel but make sure the chicken is sitting on top of the fennel when placing it in the oven. Give the chicken a last drizzle of oil and bake for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Take the baking tray out of the oven then place the fennel and chicken into a serving plate. Make a gravy out of the juices by putting the baking tray onto a high heat on the stove. Mix the water and the cornflour together until there are no lumps. Then add to the pan juices. Add the clove of garlic and using a whisk mix the gravy for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.

 

 

All about oranges

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100 years ago the land I live on used to be a substantial orange grove. There’s still one of the original trees from the original grove in my next door neighbours backyard. Up the street another neighbour has a tree and can’t eat more than one a day because he’s diabetic so he’s been sharing the fruit with people in the street. About 10 kgs were dropped over to me one day after I’d foraged some from an orange tree that grows on public land. Needless to say I had way too many oranges.

Apart from giving a heap away we’ve been eating them fresh. I also made some juice. I have made Tunisian orange syrup cake in the past which is delicious but it doesn’t use up a lot of oranges. To use up the bulk of these ones I’ve cut them thinly into 5mm rounds and put in the dehydrator (10 hours at 70C) to make dried orange chips. They look like stain glass windows when ready. No need to peel off the rind this can be eaten too when dried. Once cooled and dried melt some dark chocolate and dip the orange chips into the dark chocolate. Put in the fridge on trays to set the chocolate. Store in an air tight jar.

Illawarra Plum

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Podcarpus elatus, also known as Illawarra plum are ripe at the moment. I found a street that had been planted with them as street trees. I grabbed around 3 kilos worth because I wanted to experiment and cook a few recipes with them. They can be eaten fresh, just wait until the flesh is soft and gives when you squeeze it. Remove the external seed by twisting it off, don’t eat the seed. Before eating and cooking I soaked them in vinegar and water just to clean them up a bit. They can also be frozen or dried.

I made fruit leather with them. I used 1 kilo of the last of the apples from our tree out back, 300 grams of the plums and the juice of half a lemon. I put it all on a pot on the stove with 1/2 cup water and cooked on a medium heat. I used the stick blender to puree then allowed it to stew for about 10 mins to bring out some of the sweetness in the apples. Then I placed in dehydrator for 7 1/2 hours at 70C. Make sure it’s completely dried before storing.

Another thing I tried that worked out well was –

Illawarra plum muffin recipe

300 grams wholemeal spelt flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

220 g coconut sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut

400 grams Illawarra Plum, puree with stick blender

1/3 cup macadamia mylk

1/3 cup olive oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pre heat oven to 190C. Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Get all the wet ingredients and whisk together until well combined. Then add the wet to the dry ingredients. Stir until it is just combined, don’t over mix the batter.

Place in a 12 hole muffin tin and cook for 25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

 

Beginners guide to pine mushrooms

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I took some friends for a picnic yesterday at one of my mushroom hunting spots. We spent a bit of time searching for mushrooms then ate a picnic lunch and fried up some of the mushrooms we’d found. We were searching for Lactarius deliciosus and hoping for Porcini which also grow at this spot. I realised at one point that I probably take what I now know about these mushrooms for granted so I thought I’d put together a beginners guide to these mushrooms.

So here’s the disclaimer. I’m not a scientist, mycologist, botanist, fungi expert of any kind. I’m just someone who’s interested in all things edible. If you’re thinking about eating your first wild mushroom based on this post think again. Do your research and head out with someone who knows what they’re doing and collect with them. Do some courses and get to know how to identify mushrooms and plants in general. It will give you a discipline to draw from when trying to identify the edible from the not so edible.

Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms are commonly called pine mushrooms or saffron milk caps in South Australia. There are no poison lookalikes that I’m aware of growing here. Mushrooms it might get confused with are Gymnopilus junoniusLactarius deterrimus, Lactarius semisanguifluus, Lactarius torminosus. Be aware that not all people holding workshops or courses are 100% correct all the time. They might say the wrong thing by mistake or have the wrong idea about a particular mushroom. Check and triple check the information you have been given.

The main features are a round orange blotchy depressed cap with concentric circles. The cap can be anywhere from 4 – 15 cm.  As the cap gets older the edges turn up and it’s more bowl shaped. The gills are orange and close together. The stem attaches to the central part of the cap and has blotches of white on it. A few hours after picking it bruises green where you’ve handled it. When you cut the stem it exudes a orange milky sap. In the older mushrooms the stem is hollow.

Here are some of my rules when I go hunting for these guys:

  • If in doubt leave it out

Don’t pick it if you have any doubt in your mind about it.

  • Take children with you

They have eagle eyes and always find the best ones.

  • Don’t pick ones that look a bit deformed or have any weird growth on them.

The deformity could be because they’ve been pressing on a stick or other mushroom as they grow which is ok but other kinds of deformity could be from a disease.

  • Don’t pick bruised ones

These ones have been touched by something. That something could be anything. I don’t really want to imagine what that anything might be.

  • Pick the young ones

These ones are the freshest and most likely haven’t been interfered with by people or animals.

  • Clean as you pick

Take a sharp knife, clean paint brush and damp cloth with you. Use your brush and hands to remove any pine needles from the cap. Hold the mushroom like a you would hold a CD so the cap doesn’t drop into the dirt when you cut it. Then cut the stem horizontally with your knife. Use the cloth to clean the cap and then place gill side down in basket. This keeps the gills clean so you don’t get grit in your mushrooms and also helps spread the spores around as you walk.

  • Always cook them

This should kill off any bad germs that may be on them.

  • Read the landscape

These mushroom grow under mature pine trees in the Adelaide hills. Think about the space these trees grow in and how the space is being used. Do people walk their dogs here? Would people use some spaces as a toilet spot if there are no public toilets around? Are they close to paths and roads that would see more traffic on it? Try to avoid picking in high traffic areas. Also, avoid areas near young pine plantations as these get aerial bombed with glyphosate to kill grasses and other plants competing with the young pines.

  • Eat that day

I’ll generally only pick what I’m going to eat that day. If you need to store them keep in the fridge in paper like you would a store bought mushroom. If you love them and end up eating heaps just be aware that your urine will go orange. Much like what happens when you eat a lot of beetroot. On that note, they are very nice but like all new food just eat a little at first you never know, you might be allergic. There are stacks of recipes on the web but I like eating them in mushroom pasta.

 

Mushroom pasta

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Mushroom season has started a little late this year. There were some around in early May but I’ve been waiting for the cooler days and the rains to come for them to really start cranking. The Lactarius deliciosus, also known as Pine mushrooms or Saffron Milk Caps are a plentiful mushroom that very easy to find at this time of year. I like to pick them very young when they haven’t been eaten by any other critters. As the Latin name gives it away, they’re delicious. These ones will be cooked up using the following recipe using wonderful South Australian produce. It’s also pretty exceptional when eaten with lovingly made homemade pasta.

8 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 red onion, finely sliced

1 tablespoon Murray river salt

750 grams pine mushrooms, sliced

125 grams b.d farm butter, diced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

cracked pepper to taste

1/2 cup Adelaide Hills white wine

1/2 cup flat parsley, chopped

500 grams cooked pappardelle L’Abruzzese pasta

Preheat a pan to a high heat. Add garlic, onion, salt, pepper. Top with mushrooms then finally add cubes of butter and pour the oil. Cover with a lid and cook on high heat for 5 minutes without stirring. Uncover then add the wine and stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. The mushrooms should still be firm but cooked through.

When ready add parsley and stir through cooked pappardelle pasta to serve.

Pear chips

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A few months back I was driving in the Adelaide Hills and had to take a detour because the road was closed. That detour took me past a few pear trees planted on the side of the road. They weren’t ready yet so I headed back a few weeks later to check them again. Pears are a bit tricky to work out when they’re ripe because they don’t ripen on the tree.  If you wait too long they drop off the tree and they may also rot in the middle too if left too long.

The only test I know to see of they’re ready is to lift the fruit at a 90 degree angle and if the fruit easily comes off then you are good to go… but not quite yet. You need to wait at least another two weeks for them to ripen. Mine took closer to four weeks and the wait was unpearable! When they were finally ready I realised that they weren’t any good for eating raw. They were very dry and sour so needed cooking to bring out the sweetness in them.

I made an upside down pear cake with these pears and it turned out great, but these pear chips were amazing. To make pear chips, wash them well and dry. Then slice thinly and lay out in single layer on a tray. I baked these in a oven at 100C for a few hours until they were semi dried. I wanted them a bit chewy still but they can be dried for longer in a dehydrator for longer preservation. Can eat as a snack but I made these to add to a locavore platter.