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In Season in November

This picture is from an “In Season” post from four years ago.  Oddly, considering how neglected my garden is at the moment, I’m harvesting pretty well the same lot.  This time of year is a season of the first of things and the last of things in my garden, as the winter plantings finally end and the first of the spring plantings start to bear. Today I stripped out all the remaining broad beans and the last of the peas for shelling, so I can feel some broad bean, pea, mint and lemon puree coming on.  There is lots of celery but it is starting to flower so not for much longer now.  The later rounds of broccoli are bearing main heads and the earlier rounds side shoots, but I’m expecting cabbage and web moths to arrive soonish.  They’ll finish off the chinese cabbages too.  The cavallo nero kale has been prolific all winter but it’s starting to get aphids now.

I still have bulk silver beet but all the earlier plantings are now running to seed.  All my parsley has run to seed, and I am now harvesting seed from coriander and dill too.  Rocket has run to seed, but the nasturtiums are rocketing along and providing that peppery-ness in salads.  Though I still have lots of lettuce, the number of varieties is going down.

I’ll have some Eureka lemons most of the year, but the bush lemons are finished and I’m picking the very last of the late season mandarins and grapefruits. The grape vines are laden and though the grapes will be a month or so yet, I’m using the leaves regularly.

I’ve stopped cutting asparagus for the year but just as the asparagus finish, I start cutting artichokes.  The new zucchini are getting to a good size to pick young fruit as well as flowers.  I picked the very first of the Corno de Toro capsicum today, a bit green still but there are lots more coming on.  The first of the season’s new potatoes – such a treat – along with baby cucumbers and the first of the squash.

I am also picking the first of the season’s fresh garlic – early, but then I planted early too.  Fresh, juicy garlic is a totally different thing to the dried up imports from China.  If you don’t grow your own, look out for fresh local garlic at Farmers Markets from now on.  It’s an experience!

With fruit, this is berry season – strawberries, blueberries, white and purple mulberries.  It doesn’t last long so I’m making the most of it.  Paw paws are still in bulk, and the white mulberries are laden this year.

So that’s what I’ll be basing my cooking around this month.

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Teo is eleven months old and everything gets the test: bite it, bang it, throw it.   First time I made these I made just a little batch thinking little baby, couple a day…

Two problems with this idea.  One is that, although he loves them,  most of Teo’s get thrown to the ducks or lost under the couch or used as a drumstick on the stereo speakers.  He has ultimate confidence in the infinite supply-line of grandma.  Two is that adults keep raiding the rusk jar.  I’m not admitting anything, but they do go rather well dipped in guacamole.

The Recipe:

Start the night before with feeding your sourdough starter:

To feed the starter, I take mine out of the fridge the night before, and mix

  • 1 cup of unbleached bakers flour,
  • 1 cup of water, and
  • 1 cup of starter.

Put half of it back in the jar in the fridge.  I am left with a bit over a cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for the night. By morning it should be frothy and alive looking.

In the morning:


  • The  fed sourdough starter
  • Enough wholemeal plain flour to make a bread dough (about a cup)
  • big pinch of salt

Mix to make a soft dough and knead very briefly, just enough to make a smooth ball. It’s hard to give exact instructions to this but it’s actually very easy to recognise a good dough by feel.  I add the flour slowly, stirring it in with a spatula, then as soon as I have something dough-like, I scrape it out onto a floured benchtop, sprinkle some flour on top and knead, adding just enough more flour to get rid of the stickiness.

Put a glug of oil in a bowl and swish the dough ball round in it to coat. I like using macadamia oil for this.  It has a mild sweet nutty flavour and good monounsaturated fats, and you don’t use a lot of it so it’s not too expensive. Leave  the dough sitting, covered with a clean tea towel, for five or six hours to rise.  How long will depend on how vigorous your starter is and how warm the day is but after a few hours, the dough will be doubled in size and springy.

Shape and bake

Flour your bench-top, tip the dough out and knead it again, just for a couple of minutes to knock it down.

Oil three or four biscuit trays.  Break off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll them between your hands into little logs.  They will expand a bit so make them a bit thinner than baby hand sized. Lay them on the trays and cover with the tea towel again and allow to prove for an hour or so.

Put them in a cold oven set to a moderately slow temperature – about 170ºC or 340°F or gas mark 3, or put them down low in an oven you have on for something else.  My oven is antique and slow at the best of times, but the idea is to cook them for an hour or so at a low temperature till they are just getting a bit of straw colour but not browned, and crisp through without being crunchy. Slow baking is the key.

If they are dry and crisp all the way through, they should store in a jar for several weeks.

I think.


Can’t say we’ve tried it.

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Spicy Kale Pancake

kale pancake

The blog is neglected, the house is neglected, the garden is neglected, but the kale keeps giving. Wonderfully prolific, resilient and long lived, my current favourite vegetable.

The Cavalo Nero I am harvesting now is last years. It survived through the summer – the cabbage moths attacked and most of the leaves along with the grubs went to the chooks – but it just kept producing more. It came into winter with plants a metre tall. It survived months with almost no rain. Our tanks got down to the minimum we save for firefighting with the prospect of an el Nino summer ahead and the leaves got a bit tough for salads or stir fries or chips but still fine for soups and stews.  The bower birds got hungry and got in and stripped the plants. Then last week we got some rain and the tender new leaves came on.

We’ve been eating it in some form or another several times a week – in soups and stews, in pakora and pesto, in kale rolls and lasagna, in stir fries and tempura, in saag and fu yung.  Half a dozen plants and several bunches of super vitamin packed greens every week for years.

These spicy kale pancakes are my current favourite breakfast.

The Recipe

Makes two  pancakes.

Mix together

  • half a cup of  wholemeal flour 
  • one egg
  • a desertspoon of fresh ginger grated
  • a desertspoon of fresh turmeric grated
  • a pinch of chili powder (more or less depending on how hot your chili is and how spicy your taste)
  • a teaspoon each of coriander and cummin powder (or substitute fresh coriander)
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • pinch salt


  • a cup of shredded kale – leaves stripped off the central stem and chopped roughly but fairly fine,
  • a spring onion chopped fine, and
  • enough water to make a pancake-style batter.

Fry in oil in a heavy frypan, hot but not full-bore, for a couple of minutes on each side till golden.  Serve topped with cucumber raita and chutney, or you could go for plain yoghurt and (it sounds odd but it works) lime or cumquat marmalade.

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My sister-in-law has a brain tumour.  My brother is losing the love of his life, his soulmate, his partner. How is it that we can spend so much life forgetting what is important? At times like this what matters – memories of moments lived wholly, people we love, children raised well, pieces of work that ring true. That’s all, and enough.


Winter Tomatoes

sun dried tomatoes

There was a good frost down the bottom of the hill this morning, but in my high, north facing garden, even this time of year we are getting a little handful of tomatoes a day.

But this time of year it’s the tomatoes sun dried in the peak of summer that are the treasure.  They go in pasta and gnocchi and minestrone and on pizza. A whole handful go into ragu or bean stew.  They go on crackers with feta and in tapenade for spreading on toast.  And I have to admit, I have been known to eat them straight from the jar.

The most valuable preserve on my shelf (well, maybe equal first with Preserved Lemons) and they cost me no fuel and very little work to make.

winter tomatoes

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ful medames

OK, so I know somebody is going to protest about the inauthenticity of this.  And the photo doesn’t help.  Ful Medames is an Egyptian dish made with ful, which are fava beans or broad beans.  I make a version with fresh broad beans often in late winter or spring when they are in season and it is much more photogenic. But the strong  lemon/garlic/pepper kind of flavours of ful medames work with practically any kind of beans.  I’ve made this often with dried purple king beans or rattlesnake beans, which yields a much nicer looking light pinky-brown bean dip.  But this one is a real fusion – a middle Eastern dish using American black turtle beans.

I harvested the last of the turtle beans this week.  They were pretty dry on the bush, but we had the wood stove going and it was real bean eating weather so rather than dry them all the way for storage, I cooked them straight away in my favourite bean dish of all. The flavours are amazing – a whole bowl of beans for dinner and you scrape the bottom of the bean bowl.  On this occasion with sourdough flatbread with poppy seeds and crushed linseeds to scoop with.

The Recipe:

  • First soak and cook a cup of dried beans (or if you start with semi-dried beans like I did, a cup and a half).  Bean Basics has the basic method for this.  Soak them overnight or for a few hours, then pressure cook for 15 minutes or boil for about 45 minutes or cook them in a slow cooker for 5 or 6 hours.  Reduce to half beans half water consistency.  For this recipe, you want beans that are very soft.
  • Fry a chopped onion gently in olive oil till soft.
  • Crush or chop a whole corm of garlic (yes, lots!).  Add to the onions.
  • Crush or grind a whole dessertspoon of black pepper (yes, lots!) and add that too.
  • Add salt to taste.  Start with a scant half a teaspoon, but you will probably end up adding more.
  • Add the beans.  Simmer gently, stirring often, for about half an hour. The beans should break up but if you need to you can help them a bit with an eggbeater or a stick blender.  You can make it into a smooth puree if you like – I like it better with some whole or mashed beans in it.
  • Add a third of a cup of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust the salt and lemon juice – you will probably add more of both.

Serve in bowls with pita bread or flatbread to dip.

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My son is here for the weekend with some of his friends, so I get to do my favourite thing in the world and feed a mob of young urbanites.

But they sleep in!

So while I’m waiting, I thought I might give you a preview.

mandarins carambola grapefruit

First up, winter fruit – carambola, mandarins, grilled pink grapefruit, with yoghurt.

Then poached free range eggs on sourdough toast with lemony garlicy  mushrooms with goats’ cheese.  The mushrooms have been braised in garlic, butter and lemon juice, and I’ll pop these in the oven just as they come to wilt the spinach and melt in the cheese a little.

garlic mushrooms with spinach and goats cheese

With a side of haloumi and winter tomatoes (which I’m very proud of at this time of year) on a bed of rocket.  I’ll fry the haloumi in a little olive oil and dress with  balsamic at the last minute.


With homegrown coffee and homemade sourdough with lime or kumquat marmalade.

lime marmalade

There was mention of lemon butter last night so I’m thinking pancakes with lemon curd for tomorrow’s breakfast.

The wood stove is lit, the sun is shining, music on the record player, guests for breakfast – life is good.


Contemplating Extinction


Spotted on my morning walk, a fine fat fellow looking very relaxed in a tree right next to our driveway.  I don’t think it is a tree we planted but the one right next to it is.

Our daughter was given some tickets to Currumbin Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast a couple of weeks ago, so we took six month old grandson Teo for a day out.  And it was a very pleasant day.  But it was more interesting, and eye opening,  for me to see people reacting.  Sometimes I need to be reminded how privileged I am.

It is easy to imagine if you live in a city that wildlife is happily safely securely flourishing “somewhere else”.  You hear about extinctions but maybe you don’t get just how profound it is. Good solid science, not greenie hyperbole,  says we are now entering this planet’s sixth mass extinction, the biggest loss of diversity since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In earlier mass extinctions, something up towards 90% of the world’s species went extinct.  Huge numbers.

Eventually of course life finds a way – or at least it always has up till now.  Evolution starts with the species left and diversifies, because in diversity there is resilience.  But in the meantime life is pretty skinny.  And the “meantime” is longer than my poor little human brain likes to contemplate. I can only really care, personally as opposed to philosophically, as far as maybe my great great grandkids. But I’d really really like them to see a koala happily munching gum leaves.  I’d really really like them to have the magnificent experience of sitting at the headland at Point Lookout watching whales breaching as they migrate north to give birth.  I’d like them to catch guppies in a creek and marvel at water skaters and spider webs. I’d love them to know there are tigers and lions and gorillas even if we never see one. It wrenches my heart to imagine a world where “once upon a time, there used to be big pure white bears that could catch fish to eat in the frozen icelands of the north pole”.

Greenies get bad press for creating a fuss and blocking “development” about saving “some frog somewhere”, as if this is a ludicrous and extreme concern.  But we are looking square down the barrel at losing 90% of the world’s species.  Each one of them food for or a predator for another one, the loss of one setting off chains of reactions that spread like one of those massive domino art pieces.  And somewhere in that array of dominoes is the human species feeling all chuffed and superior and forgetting that loaves and fishes are plants and animals and part of that 90%, just like us.

Protectors at Maules Creek in north western NSW have just managed a huge effort over the long weekend, camping out in the cold, walking long distances through the night to get around road blocks designed to stop them,  nearly 100  arrested, to hold off forest clearing contrary to its conditions of approval (ie illegal) by Whitehaven Coal till an injunction could be obtained from a court. Leard Forest has nationally-listed and critically endangered tree species, home to nearly 400 species of plants and animals including threatened and endangered species. That’s the choice – more coal, or one less domino down.

And then, last week at the Australian Local Government National General Assembly, Griffith Council moved that ALGA write to the State and Federal Government requesting it to intervene and determine that exploration and mining of CSG in agriculturally productive land not be permitted. Motion: Lost. Moyne Shire Council sought the support of the National General Assembly in opposing the exploration for and extraction of Coal seam, tight and shale Oil gases in Australia. Motion: Lost. Gunnedah Council has moved a motion asking the Federal Government to retain the primary responsibility for the approval of resource projects, coal seam gas in particular and provide regulation which best preserves and protects our natural resources. Motion: lost. Rural councils that see the extent of the devastation of both natural environments and farming lands are being outvoted by city councils that see only places like Currumbin.

And the saddest thing is, there is no need for this mass extinction.  It’s not a massive comet or a huge volcanic eruption blocking out the sun.  It’s just being a bit too slow to react to the very real threat. It’s being suckered by a handful of beads for the world.

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Red Claw Pappardelle

red claw pappardelle

I have to confess, this recipe has been in my drafts since Easter.  Mostly because I totally know most of you won’t have access to red claw and so right now you will be thinking mean things at me!

But you could do red claw.  My son has them growing in an aquaculture tank in the back yard of an inner city share house in Brisbane.  Ours were introduced into our front dam just under a year ago as juveniles about 3 inches long.

1-baby red claw 4 july 2013

We submerged some milk crates full of pieces of hollow bamboo for them to shelter in – each one like to have its own little hidey hole – but otherwise they’ve had no feeding or care at all.  Over Easter, just for fun, we set some traps to see how they were faring and easily caught half a dozen.  We threw the females back – theoretically they should breed in our climate – but kept three of the large males about 20 cm long in the body, with big fat front claws. I was planning to make them go around four of us, and then at the last minute two more arrived for lunch.  And like loaves and fishes, three red claw went generously round six people as red claw pappardelle with a green salad and some garlic sourdough on the side.

The Recipe:

This recipe makes 4 generous serves. With a salad, it will go round 6 without feeling miserly. The same idea would no doubt work for yabbies too.

The Sauce:

It is tragic to do too much to red claw.  The meat is sweet and pink and very delicious.  We put the three large male red claw in the freezer for ten minutes, then straight into a pot of boiling water and cooked for just a few minutes. Then we cooled them enough to handle and shell them. While they are in the freezer is a good time to start making the pasta, and while they are cooling is a good time to roll it out.

The tail is the only part with real meat, but it is worth picking the meat out of the front claws too.  The heads and shells went into a pot of water to make stock for another day.

Finely dice a large onion and saute gently in a generous amount of really good olive oil till translucent.  Add three or four cloves of finely diced garlic, then, all at once:

  • a handful of lemon basil finely chopped (lemon thyme would no doubt work too)
  • juice of a lemon
  • a teaspoon of finely grated lemon rind
  • a couple of teaspoons of chopped capers
  • the red claw meat, coarsely chopped
  • good olive oil enough to coat everything

Just heat through, then toss the sauce through the pasta, top with some chopped flat leaf parsley, and serve.


I have just one pasta recipe, and I’ve posted it several times before, but I’ll repeat it here so you don’t have to click around.

In the food processor, blend:

  • two large eggs (or if your eggs are small, add a bit of water too)
  • 1 cup  flour – I use the high gluten unbleached baker’s flour I use for my bread, but you can use any plain flour.
  • a swig of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Blend until it comes together into a soft dough.  It needs to be not sticky but soft.

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. It will look like quite a small dough ball, but a little bit goes a long way.  Let it rest for a few minutes covered with a wet bowl or cup, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

For this recipe I cut it into 30 mm thick pappardelle noodles, but you can go for any shape you like.  You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better.  If you go to the effort of rolling it out, then folding it into a block and rolling it out again, you get a denser, more al dente pasta.  Usually i don’t bother but to do justice to red claw  it’s worth it.

Sprinkle flour over the top of the rolled out dough, then roll it into a log.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

If you put a big pot of water on to boil at the same time you start the sauce, the two should be ready at more or less the same time.

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