Archive | July, 2012

Tuesday Night Vego – Cabbage and Apple Braise with a Potato Pancake

31 Jul

I’ve been testing out cabbage recipes that the kids might actually eat. Last week we had corn and cabbage fritters that went down a treat, and tonight I thought I’d incorporate some apple into a braised cabbage dish, because every kid likes apple – right? Just to make the dish even more likely to please I thought I’d add a German-style potato pancake (Kartoffelpuffer) and some apple sauce.

The photograph isn’t much to look at, but I thought it was tasty. The braise recipe came from here, although I changed the caraway seeds to fennel seeds, increased the cider vinegar and added some white sugar.

The potato pancake recipe came from here. I will make the pancakes again – they were particularly good and the method was something that I hadn’t seen before. It involved draining water from the grated potato but retaining the starch and adding it back into the pancake mix.

So the verdict?

The 4 year old ate practically none of it, and the 2 year old ate the pancake then refused to even try the cabbage.

When I insisted that he try a mouthful, he ate it, gave me a defiant look, then puked it all up again into his lap. It was intentional.

What did I do to deserve a kid who can vomit at will?

For more quick vegetarian meal ideas (and ones your kids may actually eat) visit Linda

Harvest Monday – 30th July 2012

30 Jul

Another great week – I’m very pleased. I’m getting concerned though about the space still occupied by winter crops and when I’m going to have time for soil amendment before the summer plantings go in. So I’m ramping up the harvesting and plan to sow my summer seeds in trays this week.

1 wombok (1.4 kilograms)

Although these are slug magnets I was happy with how much I actually got to keep from this wombok once I stripped away the munched-on leaves. This wombok is destined for kim chi.

2.5 kilograms tomatoes

I didn’t photograph the tomatoes this week, but I picked another large bowlful, which was 2.5 kilos. I have been giving a lot away and still have plenty more for eating fresh and cooking. Last night I put some on pizza.

1 Cauliflower

Like Liz, my cauliflower has been a bit disappointing. I was sad to see that the heads were loosening before reaching a decent size, until I went through my records this evening and realised that I planted ‘mini cauliflower’. That explains it! This one at the right went to my friend Karen, who came around on Friday and helped me weed and mulch. It was fun.

4 Turnips and 1 Swede

The root vegetables are reaching harvestable size faster than I can actually use them. My friends Sarah and Aaron took some today.

5 Rainbow Silverbeet leaves and a Small handful Tuscan Kale

Sarah took these for her dinner tonight.

4 Daikon

The daikon is seriously nuts! It is growing out of control, and J was using it over the weekend as a prop for olympics-inspired roll play with her Nan.

Here she is doing daikon weightlifting. We also had hurdles, javelin, pole vault, hammer throw and a ‘torch’ relay. We concluded that daikon is definitely a track and field vegetable.

800g peas

We harvested the first of the shelling peas this week.  They are wonderfully sweet – the kids would far prefer these to lollies. A little over 800g of pods yielded approximately 250g of peas. Well I think there was about 250g. There was 230g once the kids had finished shelling them, and Little D spent most of the time eating them. Maybe there was more than 250g…

3 Green Onions

Now this is really dumb, but it has only just occurred to me this week that you can plant bulbing onions and harvest them early as green/spring onions/shallots. I know it’s obvious, but I’ve always had difficulty growing the ‘shallot’ type, but never any trouble with the standard brown onion. I’ve been harvesting them early as green onions, and I don’t think I’ll look back from now on.

8 Carrots

I’m harvesting carrots a little faster than they are growing at the moment I think. These baby ones went into a bacon and spring vegetable risotto along with the peas and green onions. It was really delicious – both the peas and the carrots are so sweet that you are constantly getting bursts of sugar explode in your mouth as you eat it. What a treat!

I hope everyone else is reaping a great harvest this week. For some inspiring summer crops head over to Daphne’s Dandelions.


Nameless Tomato Soup – A family heirloom

26 Jul

Tomatoes are a wonderful summer fruit. They are amazing in a Caprese salad, fabulous on bruschetta, and great even on their own – straight from the garden -sprinkled with salt. But when you are fortunate enough to be able to grow tomatoes in winter (and that’s anyone in coastal NSW and further north) you really need a great cold-weather recipe to show them off.

This soup is legendary in our family. My Gran used to make it, and I was thrilled to find a copy in her collection after her death. It had been cut out of an old American magazine and was credited to Gary V Travers of Oakland, California.

After making it this week it was clear that Gran had made some adjustments to the recipe, primarily increasing the quantity of tomatoes. I’ve adapted the recipe to match her method – it’s a great way to use fresh tomatoes in winter if you have them, or alternatively you can use canned.

1.2 kilos ripe tomatoes
4 cups water
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup diced, uncooked ham
1/2 cup each of diced onion, celery and carrot
2 sprigs parsley, minced
2 slices green capsicum, minced
1 can consomme or beef broth
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
3 sprigs thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch paprika
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Peel the tomatoes by cutting crosses in the base, cutting out the stem part and blanching in boiling water. The skin should start peeling away after a couple of minutes and can be peeled off easily. Dice the tomatoes and set aside. In a large soup pot add butter to ham, vegetables and seasonings, and saute for 5 minutes. Combine all ingredients and cook slowly for 1 1/4 hours, adding water if necessary to increase liquid. Serves 6-8.

3 x 400g cans of tomatoes may be substituted for the raw ones.

Because of the ham, the beef stock and the seasonings this soup is heartier than your average tomato soup, or even a minestrone. It tastes even better after a day or so in the fridge, and freezes beautifully.

Monday Harvest – 23 July 2012

23 Jul

Another good week for harvests. I might start with something that I mostly harvested:

3/4 Cabbage (500g) 

Something has been eating my cabbage. Not sure what it is, but it’s certainly not an insect. Possum maybe? After I trimmed the cabbage of all its outer leaves and munched bits, there was about 500g left.

Green Onions

This week I harvested 2 of my immature onions that were yet to form bulbs. They were used in stir fries.

4 Carrots

Used in a soup tonight.

3 stalks Celery

In soup tonight and another dish during the week.

4 leaves Silverbeet

Used in Saturday’s lunch – a pasta dish with roasted beef fillet.

Bowl of Broccoli Sprouts

The broccoli I grew this year was a sprouting type that doesn’t form a head. I’ve been trimming sprouts as required, and I used a whole bowlful in Friday’s dinner, a Hokkein noodle stir fry.

A few leaves of Basil

Used in a tomato salad on Tuesday.

2 Bay Leaves

In tonight’s soup and another dish during the week (that I can’t remember). I use bay leaves regularly but always fail to account for them in these posts. My little bay tree is somewhat stunted at the moment because I keep ‘harvesting’ too regularly.

1 Lettuce

I used this in a salad during the week.

2.1 kilos Tomatoes

The tomatoes are still producing. They are slowing though, so I worry that I’m going to have a major gap between this crop and the summer one. My seeds arrived from Eden Seeds today, so I’ll get the summer tomatoes sown really soon.

I hope everyone else has had a productive garden this week. For more interesting things people have been harvesting around the world visit Daphne’s Dandelions.


Strawberry Season’s A-Comin.

22 Jul

It might be barely past mid-winter, but the days are getting longer and warmer and my strawberries know it. Despite the neglect they have been shown they are starting to flower. For weeks I’ve been trying to find time to clean the plants of their dead material, to divide the plants and replant the runners. I finally got the opportunity on Friday while the big kids were at daycare.

If you pay your strawberry plants absolutely no attention since Summer, this is what they will look like by winter. Covered in dead leaves and runners, they are desperately trying to flower but will never thrive.

I spent a few hours out there with scissors, snipping the dead material out close to the crown of the plant. Jodi describes the process really well here.

Some of the planters also needed new soil, so I repotted with potting mix enriched with rotted cow manure and divided the plants. Each crown generally needed dividing several times. I didn’t actually have enough polystyrene boxes to replant all of my plants, but after I was finished they looked like this:

I’ve had most success in the past when I’ve used weed matting around the plants, but I’ve run out, so sugar cane mulch will have to do this time.

The remaining plants I ended up planting out into Bed B. They probably wont get enough sun there, but the space is otherwise un-utilised, and maybe they will smother the creeping oxalis that is rapidly taking over – I can only hope.

After I was finished I was left with a fair quantity of runners, which I will give away to friends and family.

Now in the absence of my own strawberries I’ve been enjoying some amazing organic ones from Queensland lately.

Pim Mens grows them in the Glasshouse Mountains and despite the hefty price of her amazing fruit my fresh produce supplier sells 800g tubs of her second quality berries. These are actually as good as most 1st quality berries you buy in the supermarket. They are perfect for making jam.

Jodi is also my inspiration for jam making. She convinced me to shun pectin/jamsetta and embrace slightly runny jam. Seeing as I was always forgetting to buy the jamsetta, it was impeding my jam making anyway. Since reading Jodi’s advice I haven’t looked back.

Both times I’ve made strawberry jam I’ve done it in batches of a little over 1.4 kilos – the weight of the berries from two 800g tubs of seconds once trimmed of the stalks and bad bits. A testament to the quality of the ‘seconds’, huh?

I washed the berries in the sink, then cut them into large chunks.

I then placed the berries into a large pot with half the weight of the strawberries in sugar (approximately 700g) and the juice of a lemon. I stir it around to mix thoroughly and let it sit for 10 minutes to release juices. I then add in the 2 lemon halves and start heating the pot on medium heat, stirring regularly.

I then cook for 30-45 minutes, by which time the strawberries will be broken down but still somewhat chunky. At this stage the jam will still be slightly runny when cooled, but still fine to spread on toast etc. If you cook it longer then the fruit will start to lose its fresh flavour, but the jam will be more ‘set’.

Once you have cooked the jam, remove the lemon halves and ladle it into clean jars. I then close them and place into another large stock pot. I fill the stockpot so that the water comes up to the level 1 inch above the top of the jam jars, then bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. This will kill any nasties and allow you to safely store the jam in the cupboard until required.

Pretty, isn’t it? I assure you that it’s also delicious. Now I’m ready for my own berries – bring on Spring!

Tuesday night Vego – Cabbage and Corn Fritters with Caper Mayonnaise and a tomato salad

17 Jul

Getting back on top of things and picking heaps of veggies, so time for another Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe. I had 1/2 of a smallish wombok in the fridge, so I wanted to use it somehow.

The recipe for the cabbage and corn fritters came from here.

I used Linda’s caper mayonnaise recipe from here.

Then I served the fritters with a tomato salad of diced fresh tomatoes, a bit of finely sliced spring onion and the last of my basil, miraculously still clinging onto the bedraggled plant. I dressed with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil.

The fritters were simple but completely delicious, and I’m not sure I’ll buy mayonnaise ever again.

Harvest Monday – 16 July 2012

16 Jul

Another week of winter gone and we creep further and further towards spring. It actually feels like it is almost here – this week we have almost continuous sunshine forecast, and today we reached 20 degrees celcius.

This week was another pleasing one for harvests.

The kids with Tuesday’s pickings

I’ll start with my gloat about tomatoes.

2.4 kilograms of tomatoes

I picked 2.4 kilos of usable tomatoes this week. There were plenty more with bug (or something else) damage that went to the chooks. I picked 1.5 kilos yesterday alone, and I reckon if I can harvest 1.5 kilos in the dead middle of winter, then maybe I’ll need to declare them a winter crop in my garden, well away from summer when the fruit fly make me cry.

I actually gave most of them away. I’m seriously considering bottling them seeing as I’ve just run out of the tomatoes I bottled over summer.

270g (4) Apples and 250g (3 stalks) Rhubarb

I picked the last 4 of my apples on Tuesday. I used them along with 250g rhubarb in an apple and rhubarb crumble.

255g Swede (trimmed weight)

Used in minestrone

9 Carrots

Used in minestrone and and Liz’s Caldo Verde.

2 bunches Coriander

Used in a salad and gave one bunch to a friend.

2 Daikon

These are getting really long now, although occasionally I hit one that is shorter and fatter. I gave these ones away to a friend.

1 Chilli

This is the first ‘Tobago Seasoning’ chilli from a plant I grew from seed. It is mild when de-seeded, and hot (but not excessively so) with the seeds left in. I grew these with the intention of stuffing them with marscapone like the type you see in delis, but it was really slow to grow. Now the plant is loaded with small fruit in the dread of winter. I’ll transplant the plant back into the garden bed once the weather warms up and hopefully I’ll have a bumper crop over the summer.

4 sticks of Celery and 260g Kale

Used in the minestrone and the Caldo Verde.

A bowlful of Popping Cress and Wild Rocket (Wild Arugula)

Used in a weed salad I made yesterday.

3 stalks Silverbeet

Used in a warm roasted vegetable, chorizo and silverbeet salad with a spicy thyme and sumac dressing.

2 Bay leaves

In the Caldo Verde.

For more harvests from around the world, visit Daphne’s Dandelions.

Eating my way out of a pickle – Popping Cress

15 Jul

I’ve neglected the weeding over the winter. Normally I would take the opportunity to get on top of it while the growth slows in the cold weather, but having done almost nothing lately, I’ve noticed a new weed that I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately it has spread quite rapidly, so I’m finding it everywhere. I first noticed it when I brushed against it accidentally and it sprayed its seeds quite a distance – many times greater than the size of the plant, like it was spring-loaded. I knew at that point I was in trouble.

Popping cress – young, flowering, and with formed seed heads

I mentioned it to my Dad this weekend, and he managed to identify it for me. It is Cardamine Hirsuta, also known as Hairy Bittercress, Popping Cress, Hairy Woodcress and Flickweed. The bad news is that  it is such an efficient distributor of seed that once you have it it is generally too late to eradicate it.

There was good news however – it’s edible!

So for lunch today I went out and gathered myself a bowlful of weeds. My reading suggested that it is tastier before it flowers, but I pulled out all of the plants I could find and brought them inside along with some wild rocket (which is also growing wild in my front yard).

I trimmed the young plants of their roots and washed them along with the rocket and some coriander that I also harvested. I put it all into a salad of winter tomatoes, avocado and french eshallots and dressed with a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and chilli.

The verdict? It is very bitter. But if I keep eating it, (particularly before it flowers) then maybe I stand a chance of eradicating it.

Now can I bring myself to sample the creeping oxalis?…

Tuesday Night Vego – Home Grown Minestrone

12 Jul

My friend Laura is vegetarian, so when we catch up this year we have been doing so on Tuesdays to coincide with the nights that I’d be cooking vegetarian anyway.

Yesterday I harvested a huge basket full of produce from the garden, so wanted a recipe where I could use a wide variety of veggies in the one meal. Minestrone fit the bill, and it was perfect for a winter’s day.  I took it as a special challenge to cram as many different types of vegetables in as possible- I don’t think I did too badly.


  • Few tablespoons Olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 Dutch carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly diced
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/2 swede, diced
  • 6 wombok leaves
  • 100g daikon
  • 1/2 choko, diced
  • 100g kale, trimmed
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced plus 1 400g can.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons small pasta shapes
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Fry the onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil until softened slightly. Add potato and swede, then fry for another minute, stirring. Add tomatoes, wombok, choko ,stock and tomato paste. Stir to combine.

In a separate saucepan, bring water to the boil and briefly parboil the daikon to remove the bitterness. Drain the daikon then add it to the soup. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.

Add the kale and adjust seasonings. Add the small pasta shapes and cook until pasta is al dente.

Serve topped with grated Parmesan and accompanied with bread. I used my home-made linseed and chia loaf.

Optionally, you could also add ham to the soup if you didn’t want a vegetarian soup.

Harvest Monday – 9 July 2012

9 Jul

The garden has been surprisingly productive over the past two weeks. Despite expending the bare minimum effort required, I have harvested quite a reasonable bounty.

1.5 kilos tomatoes

The tomato plants were in desperate need of staking. They had collapsed in quite a few places and were suffering from fungal disease on the leaves.

Over the weekend I restaked and tied the plants up, trimming the diseased lower foliage. They are looking a bit bare around the bottom now, but should continue to produce. I really need to mulch underneath again to slow the re-infection.

Over the past fortnight I’ve harvest 1.5 kilos of tomatoes, mostly this week. The chickens have scored another 400g or so – I’m having trouble with blemished fruit that I can’t explain – you can see that some of the salvageable fruit is slightly affected. We’ve had a couple of light frosts, so maybe cold damage?

I used some of the tomatoes in salads and fried as part of a hot breakfast.

8 carrots

and 4 stalks of celery

The carrots are just reaching harvestable size. They are lovely and sweet too – I really must plant another block of them to ensure continuous supply. The problem is that the backyard is the obvious place to do so, and the chickens keep ‘getting loose’ and digging up anything I plant.

The celery is great at the moment. I find it is such a rewarding thing to grow because it doesn’t go limp in the fridge like invariably does with the stuff I buy.

Silverbeet (a few bowlfuls)

Like always the silverbeet is a reliable producer. I’ve served it steamed as a side dish and with a hot breakfast.

A few blueberries

The Misty blueberries have been ripening at the rate of a few per week. It is also flowering and setting new fruit at the moment. I’ve been snacking on blueberries when I wander about the garden.

An apple

The apple tree has been giving me approximately an apple a week. Being the second (Autumn) crop, the apples are on the smaller side.

A handful of peas

The shelling peas are just starting to reach maturity now. I’ve harvested a few pods for snacking, but the vast majority of the crop is coming.

A turnip

I roasted once of the turnips as part of a pork roast dinner this week. I also roasted some daikon, which was remarkably successful. I think I’ll be coming up with new uses for daikon quite a bit over the next few months. They are getting enormous!

A handful of Broccolini

and a Wombok cabbage

I lightly stir-fried the broccolini with some of the wombok along with garlic, ginger and soy. I would have added chilli if it wasn’t for the kids (who didn’t eat it anyway).

Eggs (average of perhaps 2-3 per day)

I’m always forgetting to mention our eggs. The chooks are slower over winter, but are still providing more than we can use.

Lettuce (iceberg and mini cos)

Used in salads. I’m almost out of lettuce so I should probably get some seedlings to fill the gap.

Wild Rocket (a handful or so)

These have self-seeded around the front yard. I’m quite pleased about that because I forgot to intentionally plant it and I *love* wild rocket.

1 Rhubarb stalk

This was the first harvest from my rhubarb. I was planning to wait until Spring before harvesting for the the first time, but my father in law wanted to try some – raw. Strange I know, but he ate some and concluded that is wasn’t as tart and punchy as normal rhubarb. Not sure if this is because it is wintertime, nor whether this is a good or bad thing.

For more harvests, visit Daphne’s