Radish

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Gardening is slow. Really slow. Sometimes it’s so slow I forget what I’ve planted and then discover it later. I put these radish in for a bit of a quick crop. I had expanded out the veggie patch and was thinking I needed something that would crowd out any other little plants coming through. Water well while its growing and eat soon once it’s reached a good size otherwise it gets a bit woody. Radish can be added to salads, sandwiches or baked in the oven as they come through. I also pulled up the rest and pickled them.

Pickled radish

4 bunches of radish

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons raw sugar

1 teaspoon salt

optional, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Top and tail the radish and clean well. Slice each radish in half then place the flat side down and slice into thin semicircles. Place all the radish into sterilised jars. This amount made two small jars. Add flavour of choice to the jars . I added peppercorns to one and coriander to the other.

In a small pot, add the water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Boil for a minute or two to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour over the radish and seal the jars. Store it in the fridge.

Squash and zucchini

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It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve last grown yellow squash. These little fellas transported me back to around 16 years ago when I lived in a gorgeous old farm house on a dairy farm in Northern NSW. I had a really good composting system set up for the household scraps and collected well composted cow poo from under the cattle grate to get the veggie patch started. The vegetables were pretty darn good from that patch. I remember having some very prolific yellow squash plants and the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t remember growing squash since then. Funny how food can trigger memories.

Squash and zucchini are pretty easy to grow and versatile. You can grate them and make zucchini slice, turn them into zoodles as a pasta substitute, cut thinly and bake into chips, add to sauces, soups or curries, and grate into cakes to make them more moist. While there are lots of different ways you can cook with them, my very favourite way to cook zucchini is to grill on the barbeque. Turns out squash is just as good on the barbie. Sounds simple but it is one of those recipes where I do a little happy dance because it tastes sooo good. This little dish tastes greater than the sum of it’s parts, and in this case the parts were pretty good already. I used a flavour packed lemon foraged from a neighbourhood tree, delicious local extra virgin olive oil pressed by my friends grandparents earlier this year and squash and zucchini picked earlier that morning from my garden. A little spoon of my homemade chimichurri on top to serve and I was in heaven. Instead of using salt you can also use porcini salt.

Recipe

Zucchini, cut in half lengthways

Squash, cut in 1 cm discs

Lemon, juice

Olive oil

salt

For the amount in photo above I used the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt. I then gave it a whisk in bowl and then tossed the cut squash and zucchini through to coat it well. Then I cooked it on the barbeque give or take about 5 mins on each side. You should get nice grill marks across the surface and its ready.

 

Coriander

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My little coriander patch has reached maturity and now needs to be pulled up before the early summer heat hits. I’ve been eating a fair bit of it over the last few months but it will bolt to seed soon. I save the seed for growing my next batch of coriander as well to use the seeds as a spice in the kitchen. Before this bolts I’ll be making a batch of my dad’s infamous chimichurri.

Chimichurri recipe

Bunch of coriander
Bunch of parsley
Bunch of spring onions
Fresh chopped chillies (to taste)
1 head of garlic, half crushed, other half sliced finely
30 grams dried Italian herbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Extra virgin olive oil
Chop the coriander, parsley, spring onions and chilli finely with a really sharp kitchen knife. Mix together. Mix in the crushed and sliced garlic. Add just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the mix. Store in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.

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.

Leek and asparagus puffs

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If you’re lucky you’ve stumbled across a wild patch of asparagus down by a creek somewhere. I haven’t yet but am always on the look out as they are in season right now. This asparagus grows in my garden and a pretty low maintenance once it gets going.  Just add compost and water every now and then.

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It’s been a long time since I last grew leek. I’d forgotten about these ones, they were quite neglected and hidden by some overgrown rocket going to seed and some cabbages. To get the long white blanched stem you need to be a bit more proactive and either mound up the dirt around the stem, use some cut down pieces of old plumbing pipe or old 1L milk cartons to shade the stem.

Put these both together and you’ve got a tasty lunch or dinner. Don’t throw those leek tops out. They can be used in place of onions or roasted with a bit of salt and oil and added to other meals as a side. Or saved in the freezer to add to homemade stock.

2 puff pastry sheets

4 small leeks, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

olive oil

4 long strands of thyme, leaves

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1/3 cup cashew cheese

1/3 cup nut milk

salt and pepper

Put the oven to 210C. Add some oil to a medium heat pan, add the leek, garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the chopped asparagus and herbs to the mix and cook for a few more minutes. You want the leek fairly caramelised.

Thaw the pastry or make your own pastry. Cut each sheet into four smaller squares. Fold the edges over about 1 cm on the edges to form a little ridge. Get your nails and press into the middle part to minimise the rise. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until just starting to puff up.

While the pastry is cooking in the oven mix whisk together the egg, cashew cheese, milk, salt and pepper to taste.

Pull the pastry out of oven and top with the leek mix. Spoon over about 1.5 dessert spoons of the egg mix over the leek mix until the centre part of the pastry is covered with the egg mix. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Makes 8.

Serve with a nice fresh green garden salad.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Chickweed

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My Kris Kringle bought me a subscription to one of the big Australian gardening magazines last Christmas. I really enjoy sitting back and reading the magazines that regularly turn up, but I was bemused at one little snippet in the mag on chickweed. It said that a job to do in the garden was to remove chickweed. I was confused. Why? Chickweed is such a good plant to have in the garden and is very good to eat. There was no mention of the benefits of this humble little plant.

So, this morning while out in the garden I came across a little patch of chickweed in a wooden box I was getting ready to plant in. Instead of removing it, I harvested it for eating before planting the other plant. To harvest chickweed, gather it up in your hand and cut with scissors like you’re giving it a crew cut. This will help it reshoot and grow  again. When you bring it inside make sure you inspect the harvest carefully. This is because it scrambles and tangles up with other plants that you may or may not want to eat.

Chickweed or Stellaria media can be confused with Euphorbia peplus, which is definitely not edible. Chickweed has a line of hairs along the stalk which changes position at each node. Euphorbia peplus releases a white milky sap when you break the stem. This sap is great for burning off warts, sun and cancer spots. It’s not good if you get the sap in your eyes or mouth.  Like all wild edibles, be sure about your identification before eating.

After its been separated out from any other plants, put it in a bowl of water. Swish it around to get any dirt off. I changed the water over  a few times to get any gritty dirt out of the plant. At this point you can shake it dry and use fresh in a salad. Chickweed can also be pulped up and placed on any itchy skin conditions like a rash. Mine grows near nettle, and is a good remedy if you get a skin irritation from the nettle. It can be eaten a few different ways but today, I made chickweed pakora pancakes for lunch.

While this recipe makes heaps of pakora mix, keep the dry mix in a jar in your pantry for easy pakora when you feel like it.

Pakora flour

1 kg besan flour

60 gm salt

40 gm cumin powder

30 gm garam masala

75 gm garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

25 gm asafoetida

25 gm fennel seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients well and store in jar in pantry. Just add a little water when ready to make a thick batter.

Chickweed pakora pancakes

2 cups chickweed, finely chopped

1 cup pakora flour

Enough water to make a batter

olive oil, for frying

Mix all the ingredients well. Add 3 – 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan and use medium heat. Add tablespoon of chickweed mix to the pan and flatten into a pancake. Fry on each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with chutney.

 

Lilly pilly

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These Lilly pilly had a lovely crunchy texture, refreshing mild flavour and didn’t have a strong tannin flavour like some can. This was a mighty tree but had some low branches I could harvest from. While they’re great to eat fresh I decided to preserve some of their goodness. They are high in vitamin C and I suspect are good for staving off winter colds and flus.

First I cleaned them up by tipping them in the kitchen sink with cold water and a cup of white vinegar. I let it soak for 30 mins and give it a little swirl. Then took out a hand full at a time and picked out the bad ones before placing in an extra large colander to dry. These were relatively big berries so it didn’t take too long. These can be stored fresh in the fridge or made into a pink fermented fizzy drink. I dried mine and made a mint jelly with them.

Dried Lilly Pilly 

Cut them around the middle and pop out the seed with your thumb or the tip of the knife.  Place each half facing up on a dehydrator tray. Place some foil underneath or silicon baking sheets so they don’t fall through when they shrink. Set the temperature on 70C for 7 hours. Good sprinkled on top of muesli or eaten in a trail mix.

Lilly pilly minty jelly

Lilly pillies

Apples, optional

Native mint, Mentha australis

Water

Sugar

Add just enough water to cover the fruit. Chop the apple and include the skins and cores. No need to deseed the berries. Just put them in the pot whole. The berries will want to float so place a plate over them to hold them under the water. Bring to a boil and a rolling simmer for 30 mins. It’s ok if it cooks a bit longer, you just want it soft and for the flavour and pectin to release in the water.

Once it’s cooked set up a strainer over a large bowl and line it with a clean cloth. I used calico but any clean cloth will do. Place a small plate into the strainer to stop the big particles pushing through the cloth. This will result in a clearer jelly. Pour all the fruit into the strainer and carefully remove the small plate. Don’t gather up the sides of the cloth and squeeze or you will get cloudy jelly. Leave to drain into the bigger bowl overnight. In the morning I had a pink coloured opaque liquid. You can keep the liquid  in the fridge until you’re ready to do next step

Ratios are 1 cup liquid to just over 2/3 cup sugar. Bring to a hard boil for at least 10 minutes to help it reach setting point. Do the freezer plate test to check if it’s ready.

While this is boiling prepare your native mint. This mint is quite strong so you don’t need a lot. Place it in a bowl and blanch by pouring some boiling water over the leaves. Take leaves straight out of the water and place on a clean tea towel and pat dry. Let the jelly cool down a bit in the jars before placing mint into the jar. This will help the mint suspend in the jelly rather than clump up together.

You can skip adding the mint step and just have Lilly pilly jelly if you prefer.