Category: From my kitchen


The front garden - looking lush & in need of a weed...

The front garden – looking lush & in need of a weed…

Out the back - starting to take over...

Out the back – starting to take over…

The garden has had a real burst of life over the past couple of weeks – especially out the back which is steadily becoming quite overgrown. I’m still waiting for the flash of ripe-tomato-red to arrive in the garden, but alas nothing so far. While summer salads may be awhile off yet, the garden still provided me with a weekend lunch – zucchini fritters with a side of freshly picked beans.

Purple king climbing beans

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Today's pickings

Today’s pickings

I’m generally renowned for putting zucchinis into almost every meal, but zucchini fritters would have to be my favourite. So simple too – flour, eggs, 2-3 zucchinis and fetta cheese – yet an extremely tasty outcome. Really enjoyable and hopefully the first of many summer meals provided by the garden.

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The garden has been trying its hardest over the past month to leap well and truly into spring. Not only are flowers blooming, but my favourite spring veggie has been ready to harvest – the broad beans.

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I have really been looking forward to the broad beans forming as I wanted to try a recipe for broad bean risotto that I tried last year which was fantastic. It’s from “Grow It Cook It” which is a really great book with recipes on basic things grown in the garden (most of my favourite recipes are from it). This recipe has lemon & parmesan in it too which makes the flavour pretty awesome, but I vary it a little by adding a lot of other veggies alongside with home grown celery. Although it does use a lot of broad beans – most of the crop, it’s worth it – tastes great! Thankfully the beans are still growing and I’ll get a couple of more meals from them again before spring is over. I’ll probably just end up making risotto again though!

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Crop 1

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Crop 2

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The result!

The result!

Spring is well and truly here and the remainder of the winter veggies are fading fast. I’ve already harvested heaps of celery and have been freezing a lot of it for future use. The broccoli is long gone, the broad beans are almost ready for picking, and for the first year – I have had cabbage heads ready for harvesting!

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I have tried to grow cabbage before, but haven’t had much luck. Wombok seems to grow easily enough – but with other types like savoy or red cabbage I seem to only end up with outer leaves and no tight heads (I really grow red cabbage as an ornamental plant! Just love the colour in a mainly green winter garden). However this year I have had a few savoy cabbages grow much better that any previously and last week they were ready for cooking. Although small, I wasn’t deterred and thought I might try a couple of different cabbage recipes for some fun (and it beats cabbage soup – sorry cabbage soup fans!)

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Given how much I love Japanese food, I thought I’d stick with a Japanese theme and make gyozas and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes). The gyozas were made mainly with pork mince and of course – my home grown cabbage. The recipe did say to use wombok , however I did say I was “experimenting” with cabbage. The recipe (from the cook book “Yoshoku”) also included ginger, garlic, soy sauce, mirin seasoning, pepper and spring onions. Teaspoon of the mixture in a gyoza or wonton wrapper and then they’re ready to go. They are supposed to be deep fried, but I gave them a shallow fry in a little sesame oil instead (made me feel as though they were slightly healthier…as long as I’m convincing myself).

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The okonomiyaki were made with shredded cabbage and some fresh celery from the garden, along with the rest of the pork mince (but you can use chicken), grated carrot, shitake mushrooms, ginger, and then some flour and eggs to bind it all together. Then they are fried like any other pancake which made them quite a quick and easy meal.

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Overall the meal was a great success! Quite rich, but it felt like a real home grown treat. The only problem was the meal, and the cabbage, was gone too quickly! Good inspiration to grow more cabbage next year…

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winter garden 1 The garden has been plodding along quite nicely lately, with only the occasional fertilisation and weeding from myself. Both the front and back garden are now in full swing and looking pretty lush.  winter garden 5 winter garden 6 winter garden 8 I have been eating leafy winter greens from the garden (mainly mizuna, silverbeet/chard and kale) regularly over the past month as they’ve been doing well, but this week I’ve had a larger harvest – broccoli! winter garden 4 brocc 1 Earlier than expected (they were quite late last year), the broccoli heads have grown and are ready for harvesting. They were probably ready last week, but I thought I’d try to leave them to see if they got any bigger. However as they now look like they’re about to move towards flowering it’s time to feast on them instead. Given the pumpkin soup I made in summer never made it to winter, I thought it was high time to try making some winter soup from the garden – so today I harvested a few broccoli heads and set out to make some broccoli soup for lunch. My recipe included about 6 small broccoli heads, as well as some mizuna, kale, oregano and rosemary from the garden. I also added garlic, an onion and a couple of potatoes to help thicken it. brocc 3 After it was all cooked up (and given a good pounding with a potato masher) – I added a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to finish it off. I have to admit it tasted pretty good! Almost better though was the smell that filled the house of the freshly baked homemade bread to go with it. Too good 🙂  soup 1 soup 2

Rainbow Chutney

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It has felt like I’ve been waiting all summer for a glut of tomatoes that I’ve so desperately wanted. It was probably the same last year, I’ve just managed to block it from memory. Don’t get me wrong – the small little harvests that we’ve had most of summer have been beautiful – but I’ve been longing for tomato chutney for about 6 months now after my last lot ran out! I kept telling myself to be patient, but in the back of my mind was the worry that maybe the tomatoes were not going to be successful this year. Thankfully, when my faith that the glut would come had almost diminished – February didn’t fail to live up to expectations and I’ve been harvesting around a kilo of tomatoes a week. This only means one thing – chutney!!
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My recipe for chutney is actually a really easy one. I use the green tomato chutney recipe from “Jams and Preserves” (published by Murdoch Books). I tend to use riper tomatoes (rather than all green) and this year I used a combination of red, orange and yellow tomatoes. I also added a couple of green tomatoes to make it a colourful, rainbow chutney. Boiled with cider vinegar, sugar, a couple of onions, some sultanas and spices – the chutney takes half an hour to turn into a rich chutney colour. Although it takes half the time to stink out the entire house with the smell of vinegar!

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I’ve had so many tomatoes that I’ve already made two full batches, not including the ones I’ve diced and put in the freezer for later use. Think that definitely counts as a glut!

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Given how much chutney I now have, it’s safe to say a few friends and family will end up with a jar (yes, now taking orders) so I put little “enjoy” stickers on the top, hidden under cloth lid covers to hopefully add a homely touch. As with most preserves it’ll be a long month for the flavour to develop and I can open a jar and enjoy. My favourite: scrambled eggs with home made chutney on the side – beautiful! Hope it’s a good batch this year…

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One year ago today I published my very first blog post, and Penny’s Garden: a harvest beyond my front door was created. One year on, five peer blog awards and 86 followers later – I’m feeling pretty positive about the whole experience.

Thank you to everyone who has followed, commented, liked posts and given advice and tips to me over the past year – I really have appreciated it. So what did I do to celebrate one year of blogging? Like any other birthday – I baked a cake! Not just any cake though – a zucchini cake with zucchinis from my garden and a celebratory garden top.

I’m very excited about what the next year of gardening with all its disasters and successes will hold, and hope you will continue to join me along the way.

If anyone would like to join me for afternoon tea – I’ll be in the garden. 

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Pumpkin Soup

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It’s summer. I do realise this. Hot long days which the summer veggies of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis seem to love. It’s the season for salads with crisp fresh lettuce picked minutes before eating. Not quite the time of year for soup… but I seem to have missed that memo.

My golden nugget pumpkin plants have continued to grow well and I was able to have a little harvest of pumpkins. It was exciting just to be able to finally have pumpkins! However there was always only going to be so long before the craving for pumpkin soup started – for me it was only a couple of days.

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I found a recipe online for roasted pumpkin soup, and decided to try a variation of this. I roasted the pumpkins with fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden and a little olive oil for an hour in their skin (the recipe recommended this, but if you’re using golden nugget I’d try peeling the pumpkins first as the skin is very thin which made it quite difficult to separate from the flesh after roasting).

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Before and after roasting

Home grown garlic

Home grown garlic

I then fried an onion and a leek with some home grown garlic. I blended this with the cooked pumpkin with some chicken stock. All that was needed then was a dollop of natural yoghurt to finish it all off. It was beautiful!

And what would go perfectly with this? A loaf of fresh sourdough straight from the oven of course! Then I had a meal to please – regardless of the time of year.

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My soup!

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Finally my blueberries have started to ripen! Last year the berries ripened in spring, however this year it’s taken well into December before I’ve seen the dash of dark blue I’ve been longing for. But once they started – they’ve been off like a rocket & I suddenly have heaps of blueberries ready for picking and eating.

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I’m often asked by friends what I’d recommend to grow in containers. I think blueberries have now made it to the top of the list. Mine seem perfectly happy growing in pots (with acidic soil), and the plants are so cheap compared to how many blueberries you end up with. Plus the flowers are stunning, so you really get the best all round attractive vs productive plant.

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The new blueberry plants I added this year were from my parents for my birthday. Once planted my Mum asked me for blueberry pie when the fruit developed. While it was a casual off-hand comment, I thought given how many blueberries I was getting I should at least try to fill this request. I didn’t have enough blueberries for a whole pie (most likely because I keep eating them…) so I decided to make mini apple and blueberry pies instead. I went down to my parent’s place yesterday and surprised them with mini pies – very well received and, even if I do say so myself – delicious!

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Nasturtium Capers

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With this latest discovery, nasturtiums are possibly the most useful plant in my garden. They grow easily and quickly (including hard to fill places), they cover the garden with bright beautiful flowers (which you can eat – my type of flower!) They then shed loads of seeds all over the ground and self-sow so easily that I haven’t had to grow any from seed since my initial two nasturtium plants from a few years ago. The rest of the plant can be composted, adding to their usefulness. I was already pretty happy with how much I could do with them until I learnt I was wasting the seeds (despite giving away as many as I could) – I could be making nasturtium capers!!

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I’m not sure how I missed this one, but after mentioning it to a few people it seems they are pretty common. It’s also amazing easy to do: collect the seeds (they need to be green) and soak them in salty brine for 24hrs.  Drain, pat dry and place into sterilised jars. Add herbs and a bay leaf if you like, and then fill the jars with white wine vinegar. Too easy! All that’s left is to add some labels and wait for a couple of weeks for the flavour to develop. I made these at the very end of last month, so it won’t be long before I can give them a try…

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Summer begins

Summer is finally here! Over the past week we’ve had some lovely sunny days, followed by rainy nights and the garden has loved the combination. It’s only the second day of summer and already the first zucchini is ready to harvest – hopefully it’s an indication of what the season will bring. What better way to end the day than with one of my usual summer favourites:  zucchini fritters with home grown roast potatoes and herbs. Simply superb!

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