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cabbage moth caterpillar

It’s been a great season.  We’ve eaten cauliflower and cabbage and broccoli and kale and pak choi and daikon pretty well every day for the last five months.  We’ve eaten Okonomiyaki for breakfast a lot of times, and Cheesy Broccoli Omelette has been a regular standby.  We’ve discovered cabbage chopped very fine in the food processor, added to chicken and vegetable soup makes it thick and delicious and not like boiled cabbage at all.  We’ve discovered Cauliflower Cheese Soup doesn’t actually need cheese, or perhaps just a sprinkle of parmesan on top, and that adding a leek makes it smooth and creamy just like cheese.  We’ve had many many Roasted Cauliflower  finger food dinners, occasionally alternated with Greek Crumbed Cauli or Broccoli Tempura.  We’ve had coleslaw or Greens as Themselves as a side dish at one meal or another every day.

And it’s lasted well too.  Here it is, nearly the end of Spring, just about to launch into summer.  I’ve seen the cabbage moths around for a few weeks but the local predators have been knocking them off before they get a chance to lay eggs.  But summer is here, all but, and it’s time to say goodbye.

There are many, many organic remedies for cabbage moth caterpillars (and the web moth caterpillars that will be next to arrive).  There are nets and traps and fake moths and eggshells and trichogramma wasps  and dipel. But the only one I reckon is worth the time and effort for results is timing.

From June till October, sometimes if I’m lucky like this year all the way through to November, I can grow brassicas and do nothing to control cabbage moths at all.  From November till April or May, I can do everything in the arsenal and I still don’t get brassicas that can compete for a place on the plate with tromboncino and beans and squash.

It’s been lovely, but I need the space now for the capsicums and curcubits.  So goodbye Brassicas, till next year. It’s been very nice.

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okonomiyaki

My cabbages are getting away from me now too, the last of the winter crops colliding with the first of the summer ones.  We’re just about to pass Beltane, the point on the calendar when the day length curve flattens out into the long hot days of summer.  From now on, leafy greens are hard. Those big green leaves are adapted to catching every bit of scarce sunlight, not to avoiding sunburn.  The grasshoppers and cabbage moths are getting active.  And everything wants to reproduce.  As fast as I harvest them, another makes a bolt.

So we are eating a lot of cabbage. Okonomiyaki are a Japanese cabbage pancake, and if you are conjuring up images of British boiled cabbage or bubble and squeak, you’re on the wrong track.  Okonomiyaki are comfort food, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, not very cabbagey at all but a vehicle for the toppings, nothing at all of acquired taste about them.  I’d be willing to bet you could get them past the pickiest of non-vegetable eaters.

Proper Okonomiyaki have several special ingredients that are hard to get in my little country town.  But inauthentic Okonomiyaki are fast and easy with just what I have in the garden and in an ordinary pantry.

The Recipe:

Makes two large, dinner sized Okonomiyaki, or four small ones.

The toppings make it, so start with them.

Proper classic okonomiyaki have a whole range of toppings including Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed and bonito flakes.  I never have the right toppings in my pantry, so I make do with homemade mayonnaise with a little honey added, Worcestershire sauce mixed half and half with tomato sauce, chopped spring onion tops or chives, and toasted macadamia flakes.

Have the toppings ready because the okonomiyaki are best topped and eaten straight away while they are hot and fresh.

  • Finely shred a couple of cups, packed, of cabbage, and two big spring onions (the whites and some of the green)
  • Put in a big bowl and tip in half a cup of wholemeal flour and a pinch of salt.
  • Toss the cabbage and spring onion in the flour so that they are coated. (I just use my hands for this).
  • Beat two big or three small eggs till they are frothy.  Tip into the floury cabbage and mix until it is all just combined.  Don’t overmix it – you want the gluten undeveloped. (Again, I find this easiest with hands).  You want the flour to be all wet and the mix to stick together if you squeeze a handful.  If it is too thick, add a little water.
  • Heat some light olive oil in a pan. Spoon the cabbage mix in and flatten it with the back of a spatula (or your hands) to make a thick pancake, or a big, thin pattie.
  • Fry for a few minutes until it is browning and crispy on the bottom  and the top is more or less set.
  • Now comes the tricky bit.  I find it easy to turn by putting a plate over it and flipping the pancake onto the plate, then sliding it off the plate back into the pan.  If the top is not set enough, you can flip it again onto another plate, then into the pan. I think you would have to be very skilled to flip big ones with just an eggflip without breaking them.
  • Cook until the other side is brown and crispy too, then serve hot with toppings.

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cabbage

Some years I don’t bother with European cabbage.  My winters are short.  The cabbage moths are active right into autumn, and back by mid-Spring. Cabbages take up a surprising amount of room.  You harvest them once (unlike broccoli or silver beet) and then they’re gone.  Chinese cabbages are easier and fill the same slot, sort of.

And then I have a cabbage year and remember why I love them and vow I will plant cabbages every year.

We’ve been eating pink coleslaw, with homemade mayonnaise, shredded cabbage, grated carrots and beetroot and finely diced red onion.  We’ve been eating shredded cabbage sautèed very quickly in half butter, half olive oil till it gets little crispy brown bits. We’ve been eating mini vego Chico Rolls.  We’ve been eating minestrone. We’ve been eating Okonomiyaki – Japanese cabbage pancakes.  We’ve been eating soft boiled eggs chopped up in a bowl with diced cabbage and a little mayo for breakfast.  I’m even thinking I might make sauerkraut this year.

Remind me next autumn that cabbages are so worth it.

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mini chico rolls

It being the party season and all.

Though I have to confess, this was our lunch yesterday.  In our defense, the filling meets healthy – and is possibly even a decent way to get lots of vegetables into a children’s party plate.

mini chico roll filling

The Recipe:

This recipe fills two dozen wonton wrappers – what we get in a packet of wrappers from the supermarket.  Using bought ones makes the recipe really really fast and easy, but making your own isn’t hard especially if you use a pasta machine, so I’ll include the wrapper recipe too.

Part 1: Wonton Wrappers

You can buy wonton wrappers in the fridge at any supermarket these days, but if you make your own, you can use real egg.  In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)

  • ½ cup of flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • 1  large egg
  • a couple of teaspoons of  any light flavoured oil
  • pinch salt

Flour the workbench well and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky, soft dough. Then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Part 2: The Filling

For 24  ( a packet of skins) you need about two cups of filling when it is all raw.  The inspiration for these actually came from harvesting the very last of the season’s cabbages out of the garden.  I used cabbage, snake beans, carrots, and spring onions, all finely chopped and shredded.  You can use a food processor to coarsely grate if you are in a real hurry.

Add a half thumb of ginger, finely grated, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, a little chili to taste, a handful of herbs finely chopped (lemon basil, Thai basil, coriander, mint or a mixture) and a couple of teaspoons of light soy sauce.

Add a little oil to a wide pan or a wok, get it hot, and cook the filling, stirring, for just a couple of minutes.  You are trying more to dry it all than to cook it, and best to leave undercooked rather than over.

Mix a spoonful of cornflour (corn starch) with water (or ordinary plain flour if you don’t have cornflour in the pantry).  Take the vegetables off the stove and add a little of it to the hot vegetable mix, just enough to make it all sticky.  Keep the rest for sealing the rolls.

Let the filling cool a little while you roll out the wrappers.

Part 3: Assembling and frying

If you are using home-made wrappers, use a pasta machine, or a rolling pin and a well floured benchtop, to roll out the dough till it is translucent thin.  You will be cutting it into 10cm squares, so aim for a 10 cm wide pasta strip.

Put a teaspoonful of filling  on each wrapper.  Roll diagonally, folding the corners in. Use a finger dipped in the flour and water mix on the last corner to seal.

Wipe out your wok or pan and heat up a couple of centimetres of frying oil until it is quite hot.  I usually use light olive oil for frying like this because it has mostly monounsaturated fats, it  has  a high smoke point and it’s fairly neutral flavoured.

Fry in two or three batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, use tongs to turn them and fry for just a couple of minutes till they are brown and crispy.

You can keep them warm in an oven if you have to, but they are best eaten freshly cooked and hot with a soy and sweet chili dipping sauce.

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