great food

There's something particularly fabulous about cooking meals that include home-grown produce.  In this section I'm planning to include some recipes for dishes that I've cooked using produce from the city and country gardens, as well as talking about some of the great products and producers I've discovered in my search for organic, local, healthy and delicious food.

Scroll down to read the following posts:
  • Preserving Summer (Roast Beetroot and Walnut Pesto)
  • Home Cooked Crumpets
  • Friday Night Dinner - Silverbeet and Goats Cheese Pie
  • A couple of Sorrel recipes
  • Preserving Tomatoes
  • Annie Smithers' delicious fennel
  • Simple Beetroot pickles (that you won't get in a jar)
  • Mushroom season!
  • A Clever Use of Garden Ingredients
  • A Casual Friday Night
  • Beating the Heat
  • Tasmanian Bounty
  • New Potato and Bean Salad
  • Blackberry Chutney
  • Rail Trail Plum Jam

9 March 2014
Preserving Summer (Roast Beetroot and Walnut Pesto)

7 July 2013
Home Cooked Crumpets

19 April 2013
Silverbeet and Goats Cheese Pie

10 March 2013
Sorrel Pesto and Sorrel Soup (Potage a' l'oseille)

26 February 2013
Is it really preserving time?!

1 June 2012
Annie Smither's delicious fennel
Last week I decided to treat myself to a present of Annie Smithers' gorgeous new book, Annie's Garden to Table.  It follows the first year of Annie's kitchen garden in Malmsbury that she established to provide year-round produce for her restaurant Annie Smithers' Bistrot in Kyneton.  It's the most beautiful book and full of great gardening tips learnt as she went along, as well as delicious recipes using her produce.

With our fennel doing so well at the moment I couldn't resist at lunchtime today harvesting a couple and subtly (or not!) leaving them on the restaurant kitchen bench along with Annie's book open to her recipe for deep-fried fennel.  And it worked!  The chef produced his version of the dish and it was truly sensational.  I nearly had to be restrained from running outside and picking all the fennel then and there to cook the whole crop!

9 April 2012
Simple Beetroot pickles (that you won't get in a jar)
Check out the colour of these beetroots!  These pickles were made last week as part of a quick and simple meal before we had to rush across town to a  gig after work.

To make the pickles simply cut a fresh, young beetroot into fat matchsticks (if you are using Chioggias like this one from the Country Garden make sure that you cut across the stripes to maximise impact of the colours) and then add to a mix of equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper to season and some finely chopped fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, mint or thyme.  Coat the beetroots well and leave to sit for at least 30 minutes until the vinegar mix starts to penetrate into the beetroot a little.  Drain before serving.

I served these pickles on a platter with a red themed salad of vegies also from the Country Garden (tomatoes, carrots and capsicum mixed in fresh goats cheese, olive oil and chives and seasoned with salt and pepper), with a jar of delicious duck rillettes from Piper Street Food Company.   A very colourful dinner, especially when served on our bright red dining room table!

25 March 2012
Mushroom season!
I've been vaguely aware in the past that some people get really excited by mushroom season, a short window of opportunity to hunt for elusive funghi, but I've never taken much notice, having had it drummed into me as a child in the country NOT to pick anything in case it was poisonous.  Well it's mushroom season here at the moment, and now I understand the excitement: Yesterday we bought some of the large, bright orange pine mushrooms at the local farmers market.  They are sensational!!  We cooked them with spicy goat chorizo (also from the market), freshly picked cavelo nero from the garden, and parsley in lemon infused olive oil, served with Spanish style spicy roasted potatoes.  I don't have a photo to show because it was so delicious I was too busy eating to think about my camera!  I'm not sure how long the season goes for, but hopefully long enough to try them a few more times before they disappear for another year.

4 March 2012
A Clever Use of Garden Ingredients
Tonight M made a delicious meal of Stuffed Calamari using many of the ingredients I picked this week in the Country Garden.  He made it up as he went, so it was difficult to get him to be specific about quantities, but hopefully the recipe will be clear!

Ingredients for stuffing:
Whole Calamari body, cleaned (it's a messy job, ask your fishmonger to do it!!)
Calamari tentacles, chopped finely
Spring Onions
1 cup risotto rice
Small quantity chilli
Corn, cut off cob
Chorizo, chopped finely
Paprika (optional)
1 cup white wine
1 cup vegetable stock

Ingredients for Sauce:
Tomato passata (we used the tomato sauce made last week in the restaurant)
Spring onions, chopped finely
Excess rice stuffing

Preheat oven to 140 degrees centigrade.

Make the stuffing as though making risotto: That is, gently fry garlic and onions slowly in lots of butter.  Add calamari tentacles, chorizo, chilli and corn and cook on low heat for a few minutes.  Add in rice and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn.  Add the wine and stir until all taken up by rice.  Add the stock and stir until almost taken up, but still a little wet.  The rice will have started to soften but still be a little firm.  Stuff calamari body with the filling and either tie or skewer the end closed.

Place all Sauce ingredients and any left-over filling into a large, heavy-based oven proof pot and mix together.  Place the stuffed calamari into the middle of the pot.  Cook in the oven slowly for approximately 1 1/2 hours, flipping calamari over  a couple of times and spooning the Sauce over it occasionally.  Serve in large bowls with a glass of white wine.

25 February 2012
A Casual Friday Night
It was time to celebrate a close friend's birthday last night, and it had been a hot day, reaching 35 degrees, so we figured something simple and casual was in order.  What better Friday night meal with friends than pizza?  Of course when you make them yourself and top them with homegrown ingredients they are even better (if I do say so myself!!).  We did three versions, with everything except the meat and cheese from the garden (that will be the next step...!):

  • Caramelised onion, blue cheese, potato and rosemary
  • Tomato, proscuitto, mozzarella, rocket and as a base the delicious tomato sauce made in the restaurant last week
  • Tomato, capsicum, hot sopressa and olives on the tomato sauce base
The pizza dough recipe was one that I learnt at the bread making class I did at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery last year.  It was a fabulous course, lots of useful tips and getting to use the 100 year old woodfired oven was a real treat.  I promised last night that I'd share the recipe, so I hope the bakery won't mind.  If you're in Melbourne and want to learn more about all types of bread making, including sourdough and the best scones you'll ever eat, have a look at the Convent Bakery course.

400g Bakers (plain) flour
8g salt
20g sugar
50ml olive oil
10g dried yeast
250ml water (slightly tepid, although depends on the weather, make it cooler in hot weather)

Weigh all ingredients.  Place in bowl and mix with hands until it forms a ball of dough - not too sticky.  Place on bench and knead for approx 10 minutes until dough is smooth.  Clean loose flour etc out of bowl, grease with olive oil and return dough into bowl.  Brush top of dough with olive oil and cover with cling wrap for 2 hours to let it proof.
Split dough into approx 4 pieces and flatten each piece one at a time into a thin, vaguely round shape.  Once flattened, "dock" the pizza base by pushing your fingertips into it all over, as though you are playing piano on it.  Cover with toppings of your choice and then bake at 230 degrees centigrade for about 12 minutes.  Baking it on a pizza stone in the oven will give you a much better result, with a crisp base.
Pizza in the 100 year old Convent Bakery oven

4 February 2012
Beating the Heat
With some great consistent summer weather lately, I've been getting into some chilled summer "cooking".  I'm a huge tea-drinker, but was never really into iced-tea until I had a glass of it recently at the Captains of Industry cafe.  I think it was rose infused black tea with some fresh orange squeezed into it...mmm!  In North Queensland last October we found a great brand of locally produced vanilla tea (local tea and local vanilla) made by Daintree Vanilla and Spice.  So I've mixed up a couple of batches of iced tea with it.  It works really well. To serve it, poured it over ice with fresh mint and a few frozen raspberries floating on the top.  Tastes pretty good!

Despite all the hot weather, I have been starting to become dubious about whether the crazy, tangled overgrown tomato plants at the Country Garden would ever get to the point that I'd hoped, of providing so much fruit that the only thing to do is make big batches of passata.  But this week, they are actually starting to threaten to do just that.  I picked a big bucket of the ripest tomatoes, and suspect that there will twice as many next week!  

So it was home to find some good tomato recipes, and I realised that the current weather is perfect for Gazpacho.  I looked up Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall's version in River Cottage Veg Everyday and was very excited to see that I had basically all the ingredients from the garden.  I used a mixture of large and cherry tomatoes, which all need to be blanched and skinned then de-seeded.  Instead of a tedious task of deseeding the cherries, I put them all in a sieve once they were skinned and just pushed them through the sieve.  They added a really intense flavour to the soup.  Just before serving I stirred through a few shakes of Tabasco Sauce and then served it with a big spoonful of Holy Goat Fromage Frais, chopped parsley and basil, and some good olive oil.  It's a really simple, tasty recipe, and you don't need to put the stove on to make it!

29 January 2012
Tasmanian Bounty
M and I have just returned from a fabulous few days in Tasmania, attending the MONAFOMA Festival in Hobart and spending time sailing on the Huon River in southern Tasmania.  If this was a general blog, I'd rave about the Festival (particularly the amazing gig by PJ Harvey, and the All-Stars band lead by Brian Ritchie and Amanda Palmer who played the whole of the Violent Femmes first album) and our return trip to MONA which was equally as mind-blowing as our first visit there last year.  But it's not, so disregard the above (although if you haven't been to MONA yet, you've really got to get there)!!

The other highlight, which we always seek out on our trips to Tassie, was the food.  Tasmania really is the most bountiful of islands, both in its produce and in its people doing fabulous things with that produce.  Highlights last week included:

  • The Sunday farmer's market in Hobart, which was chock full of beautiful fresh produce.  It is cherry and berry season at the moment and so many stalls were just overflowing with the most luscious fruit.  One of the berry stalls was doing breakfast of blueberries topped with walnut granola, Elgar Farm yoghurt and mint syrup, which was delicious.  M had the traditional market breakfast of a sausage in a roll, except that it  was a salmon sausage in a ciabatta roll, with fresh salad and a horseradish mayonaise...!!  
  • A Common Ground in Salamance Place, the little shop tucked under a staircase beneath a gallery, run by the guys from Gourmet Farmer.  Our purchases here included a semi-hard goats cheese from Tongola; a great unheated, organic leatherwood honey from Sweet and Raw (which as the label says, is produced by "millions of bees and 3 gentlemen from southern Tasmania"); and the most delicious, fabulous, sensational... (yes I quite liked it!) jar of pork rillettes from Rare Foods, Matthew Evans and Ross O'Meara's label.
  • More leatherwood honey: At the first ever MONA Market (MO MA - which incidentally was officially opened the afternoon we were there with an impromptu gig by the Dresden Dolls!) we bought honeycomb made with leatherwood honey from Cygneture Chocolates.  The package contained several pieces coated with different types of chocolate.  The dark chocolate/ leatherwood honeycomb combination was definitely the winner, with the dark chocolate cutting through the intensity of the leatherwood honey.
  • Bruny Island Cheese I've been trying to get out to Bruny Island for ages and finally made it on this trip.  It's the most beautiful island, and a trip to the cheese company makes it a perfect day.  My love of their cheese is well known to family members who know that if they are coming from Tasmania to visit us, the tariff to get a bed at our place is a large chunk of Tom.  We sat down to a cheese platter and glass of local wine at the cheese company.  The platter was accompanied by delicious sour-dough bread, freshly baked in their wood-fired oven.  Now the city garden is located in the suburb with the highest per-capita number of artisan organic sourdough bakeries in the known universe, so it takes a pretty good bread to get me excited beyond my usual favourite locals, but that one was really good.  Needless to say, the Tom on the platter  was as delicious as always, but my other favourite of the day was the Saint, a french-style soft white mould cheese.

12 January 2012
New Potato and Bean Salad
This Christmas I was given a copy of the "River Cottage Veg Everyday" cookbook.  It has many recipes in it which include potatoes, always specifying that they be "new potatoes".  And truly, there is nothing better than eating a potato that has just been dug, rinsed and quickly cooked.  Our potato crop has been the most eagerly anticipated of everything we've planted, and as soon as there was the slightest hint that they might be ready we were bandicooting in under them to find the first of the crop.

One simple but brilliant way to eat them is to just boil them and then toss in butter, fresh herbs and sea salt, then eat with a big smile, but given that the potatoes have arrived at the same time as a bumper crop of beans and hot weather, I've been making a simple salad that tastes great and uses whatever other ingredients are to hand.

New potatoes, chopped into 2cm cubes (Nicolas and Pink-eye are my favourites)
Beans, topped and tailed
Tomatoes, cubed
Avocado, cubed with a generous squeeze of lemon over it
Fennel, sliced thinly
Herbs - chives, parsley, mint, thyme or whatever your favourites are
Smoked chicken or trout or ham (optional), cubed
fresh goats chevre
Boil the potatoes, taking care not to overcook them (I find new potatoes take a much shorter time to cook than older ones)
Boil the beans for 2 minutes so that they remain slightly crunchy
Allow both potatoes and beans to cool
Prepare all other ingredients
Mix herbs through the goats cheese
Once potatoes and beans are cooled, fold all ingredients together to mix goats cheese through but not to turn everything into a big mush
Season with good olive oil and salt and pepper
Serve in big bowls with a crisp glass of Semillon or Rose

Blackberry Chutney
On the drive between the city and country gardens, there is a farm with a large farm-gate shop.  It specialises in apples and stone-fruit, with lots of other delicious local produce as well.  They advertise with a series of small signs along the roads leading up to the farm which just say "Cherries" or whatever fruit is in season, with an arrow.  After following those signs for a few kilometres, by the time I get to the farm gate I am completely brainwashed into needing cherries desperately!  The last few times I've been there though, as well as the obligatory bag of cherries, I get most excited by the large punnets of delicious blackberries that they also grow.

I've made several batches of this Blackberry chutney this summer, as it goes perfectly with pork, ham, turkey, smoked chicken or duck... all those meats that I love eating at this time of year.  The recipe is a mishmash of others I've found on the web, tweaked with each new batch I make.

500g blackberries
140g caster sugar
140g red onion, chopped finely
1.5tbsp dry ginger (I've tried making it with 3 tbsp fresh ginger, but I prefer the mellowness of the dried ginger in this recipe)
2 tbsp dijon mustard
150ml white wine vinegar
3 pieces of lemon rind
Combine everything except vinegar in a large saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until the blackberries start to break down.
Season with salt and pepper.  
Add the vinegar and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the mixture has started to thicken on the back of the spoon.  
Cool slightly and then transfer into sterilised jars and seal.

Rail Trail Plum Jam
Last weekend M and I went for a bike ride along a country rail trail.  Along the way were several large plum trees absolutely weighed down with delicious, ripe fruit, and no-one around...  After taste testing several of the yellow ones and several of the red ones, we decided the red ones were sweeter and had a stronger taste, so loaded up our paniers with fresh, juicy plums.

Once at home I looked up a number of different recipes for plum jam, some of them quite detailed and incorporating many spices and other ingredients.  But ultimately I decided that given we'd got the fruit in the simplest of ways, the simplest recipe was appropriate, so I used the recipe from SBS's food website for Backyard Plum Jam.  And it is sensational!  The jam is a bright, orangy-red colour, initially sweet, and then really intense and tangy with flavour.  Perfect on my favourite Natural Tucker Casalinga loaf, toasted for breakfast!

1 comment:

  1. 25th Feb: This blog is just divine! Ever since I have known you you have had herbs and vegies or fruit of some sort growing at home. And to see your success in both your city and country gardens now is commendable and inspirational! Thank you for the pizza dough recipe. The way I cook home cooked pizza for my family has changed forever! The pizzas on the 24th Feb were just delicious!From yesterday's birthday girl xo