Garden Journal – March

This month we finally had some rain to break the drought, but not nearly enough. The days are still warm, but the early mornings are cooler. Our tomatoes and beans are finished and have been pulled out, leaving the garden looking a little bare. I’ve planted some more spring onions, as well as some broccolli, cauliflower and cabbages. I’ve surrounded them with crushed eggshells to deter the snails, and covered them with mesh frames to protect them from birds, so hopefully they’ll have a chance to grow before being eaten.

vegetable garden

We have a lot of birds in our garden as I encourage them by tossing a couple of handfuls of wild bird seed onto the back lawn every morning, as well as stale bread when we have it. The sparrows sit and wait on the trellis outside the kitchen every morning, as soon as they see movement through the window. I love a garden full of birds.

We have a new addition to our garden. I rescued a bird bath from my aunt’s house when she moved. It is very old and rustic, but it looks very much at home in our garden, replacing our old one that fell over and broke when a cat jumped on it. The birds love the new bird bath, so I’m sure it will get plenty of use!

Bird bath

Garden Journal March

Garden Journal Calendula

We have been picking blueberries throughout the month, and this month’s recipe is a Blueberry and Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Custard, using berries from our garden and Golden Queen peaches from the local market garden.

Blueberry and Peach Cobbler

80g butter or dairy-free spread
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 ripe peaches, sliced
¾ cup blueberries

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla essence. Sift in dry ingredients and mix.
Place peach slices in a baking dish. Sprinkle over blueberries. Spread batter on top.
Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes.

Vanilla Custard

2 cups milk (or soy milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons custard powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Pour 1¾ cups of the milk into a saucepan. Mix sugar and custard powder into the remaining ¼ cup milk. Add this to the rest of the milk in the saucepan. Add the vanilla essence. Heat, stirring constantly until boiling, then simmer for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.

Blueberry & Peach Cobbler

Garden Journal – February

February garden

February has been a hot, dry month. While there is still lots of colour in the garden, all of my pot plants are looking a little tired, and the trees could definitely do with a good drink. The air has been filled with the cheerful chirruping of cicadas, day and night, a sound I always associate with summer.

The heat-loving tomatoes have been doing well. I’ve made two lots of relish, pasta sauce for the freezer and we have been eating them in salads and sandwiches every day.

Tomato Relish

We’re still picking runner beans, but the zucchinis have almost come to an end. We have been picking blueberries all month, with enough to freeze for future use. Yummy with breakfast cereal or oatmeal, and in pancakes, smoothies, crumbles, or muffins.

Our thyme is in full bloom at the moment. I love its distinctive aroma. The small pink flowers are so pretty and attract the bees to the garden. It’s lovely to be able to go out the back door and pick a few sprigs to use in cooking. The sprigs look pretty in a vase as well.

Although it is sad that another summer is almost over, I am definitely looking forward to some cooler weather and the changing colours of autumn.

February garden journal

Thyme

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup raw sugar
100 ml oil
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 200º C.
Sift flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in sugar and blueberries. In another bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add oil and mix. Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and mix to combine. Grease muffin pans and place spoonfuls of mixture into each one. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for 2-3 minutes before removing from pans. Makes 12 muffins.

Blueberry Muffins

Garden Journal – January

This month has been busy harvesting foods from the garden and making jams and preserves from local fruit. We have been picking our runner beans regularly throughout the month and started picking our tomatoes the last week of the month. The tomatoes are from a packet of heirloom tomato seeds that I planted, so it has been fun to see what they turn out like, with the tomatoes evolving into an interesting variety of shapes and sizes. I have continued to plant beetroot, carrots and spring onions for an ongoing supply into the autumn.

Harvest from our garden

Harvest from our garden

I had a go at making blueberry jam but it was a bit of a flop as it didn’t set properly. Apparently blueberry jam is tricky to get right. However, it will no doubt get eaten as toppings for desserts etc.

One of my favourite fruits, Black Doris plums, came into season at the end of the month. We found an organic orchard that sell them, not far from where we live, and bought loads to make jams and preserves. The Black Doris jam was a success, and there are plenty of plums left over to make desserts as well as stewed plums to have with our breakfast cereal.

Preserves

I have continued to make zucchini slices and loaves for the freezer. The one zucchini plant has been providing us with an ongoing supply. I also bottled nectarines and beetroot. This is the first year we have grown our own beetroot and we have been enjoying it roasted and with salads. It’s great that it is so easy to grow, as beetroot is highly nutritious, high in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, and good for the heart. My new favourite cake is Red Velvet Beetroot cake. There are many variations on Red Velvet Cake, some using red food colouring and some using beetroot. I have adapted the recipes to make my own version  – see below.

There are lots of herbs flowering in our garden at the moment. The blue and purple flowers are very pretty and are good for encouraging bees to the vegetable garden.

Copy of Garden Journal - January

Garden journal-Stevia

Red Velvet Beetroot Cake

This is a moist cake. If it is a little gooey in the middle, don’t worry, it will be all the more delicious!

250g cooked beetroot, grated
3 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml vegetable oil
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla, oil and beetroot until well combined. Add sifted flours, baking powder and cocoa to mixture and mix well. Pour batter into cake tin.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool and spread with chocolate vanilla cream cheese icing.

Chocolate Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 ½ cups icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla. Sift in cocoa powder and icing sugar and mix until smooth and creamy.

Red velvet beetroot cake

Slice of Red Velvet Beetroot cake

Garden Journal – December

December has been a busy month in the garden with lots of growth – both plants and weeds! I love this time of the year with all the lovely berries that are around. We have a berry farm nearby that sells fresh raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries. I made my first ever batch of raspberry jam this month. Ten jars, some of which I gave away, the rest stored in the pantry for the year ahead.

My favourite tree, the Jacaranda, is resplendent this month with its purple flowers blooming in gardens and on roadsides all over town.

We are picking zucchinis every day. They are so versatile, grated into a salad, chopped into stir-fries, or baked into vegetable dishes, cakes and loaves. Two of my favourite dishes are Zucchini and Carrot Slice, and Zucchini Blueberry loaf, both easy to make and a great way to use up that surplus of zucchinis!

Garden journal - December

Garden journal December2

This Zucchini and Carrot Slice makes a delicious vegetarian meal, and is nice cold the next day.

Zucchini and Carrot Slice

250 g zucchini
1 large carrot
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 cup grated cheese (I use hard goat’s cheese)
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup oil
salt & pepper to season

Grate carrot and unpeeled zucchini and place in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix to combine. Pour into a greased dish and bake at
180ºC for 50 minutes.

Zucchini and Carrot Slice

Zucchini & Carrot Slice

This is a healthy, nutritious loaf that can be made with fresh blueberries when in season, or frozen blueberries out of season.

Zucchini Blueberry Loaf

(makes 2 loaves)

4 eggs
2 cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oil
2 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups peeled, grated zucchini
1 cup blueberries

Beat eggs. Gradually add sugar, then vanilla and oil. Add sifted dry ingredients. Stir in zucchini and blueberries. Divide mixture between 2 loaf tins and bake at 180ºC for 50-60 minutes.

Zucchini Blueberry Loaf

This loaf is nice spread with a little honey.

Slice of Zucchini Blueberry Loaf

Garden Journal – November

November is a lovely time in the garden. Late spring and everything is green. Things are beginning to grow quickly now, including the weeds! The gardens are bursting with colour, and my favourite flower, the foxglove, is blooming beautifully. The sage bush is growing nicely and should have plenty of leaves to pick next month for making sage and apple stuffing balls to have with our Christmas dinner. Our strawberries are prolific this month, giving me an opportunity to make one of my favourite desserts – strawberry shortcake. It is a quick, easy recipe, and very delicious!

Strawberry Shortcake

225g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
125g butter (or dairy-free spread)
1 egg
2 tablespoons sugar

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter. Beat egg and sugar until thick, then mix into dry ingredients. Knead into a ball. Press into a greased or paper lined sponge roll tin. Bake for 20 minutes at 190ºC.
Top with strawberries and serve with yoghurt, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Garden Journal – October

Despite October being very windy, it was a pretty month in the garden with lots of plants coming into flower. The air was filled with the sweet scent of orange blossom, the lavender was abuzz with bees, and the maple tree was stunning with sunlight shining through its dark red leaves. Lemons are abundant in my garden at the moment, and I have included a recipe for my favourite lemon curd cake. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd Cake

Lemon Curd (makes 3 cups)

4 lemons
100g butter
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, beaten

Place grated zest and juice of lemons, butter cut into small pieces, sugar, and eggs in a saucepan. Cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Cool, stirring occasionally until thick and glossy. Mixture will thicken further when placed in fridge for a few hours.

Cake

2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
100g butter, chopped into small pieces
3 eggs
1 cup of lemon curd
Icing sugar for dusting

Rub together self-raising flour, sugar and butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add eggs and mix to combine. Grease and line a spring-form tin with baking paper. Press three-quarters of the mixture into the base of the tin. Spread over 1 cup of the cooled lemon curd, then spread over the remaining cake mixture. It can be a little sticky, so dust your hands with flour, then press out small pieces at a time and place on top of lemon curd.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes at 180ºC. Cool in tin before removing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with an extra spoon of lemon curd drizzled over the top. Delicious!

Garden Journal – September

As a writer, I am constantly taking note of which plants and trees are in flower at any one time of the year, so that I don’t make a blunder in my stories and have something flowering in the wrong season. Until now, I have jotted down notes here and there, but then forget where I have written them, so I decided it would be fun to start a garden journal in which I can write down observations, make sketches, and keep a record of what is happening in my own garden. It will be a little like a scrapbook in which I can paste photos and pictures. I am also going to include information on one of my favourite subjects, herbs, as well as including recipes using plants harvested from my garden each month.

I decided that September would be a perfect month to start my journal, as we are coming into spring, the garden is coming to life, and I have started planning and planting my garden for the coming season.

These are the first few pages from my journal.

Rosemary is a useful herb in the kitchen. Rosemary flowers are pretty in salads and make an attractive garnish. You can strip the leaves from the stalks and use them as skewers for the barbecue. The chopped leaves can be added to scones, breads and biscuits, and cooked in stews and soups.

These are two of my favourite recipes using leaves from my rosemary bush.

Rosemary Lemon Shortbread

1/2 cup castor sugar
250g butter
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp chopped rosemary leaves
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tblsp cornflour

Cream butter and sugar. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and rosemary leaves. Add sifted dry ingredients. Knead well and roll out to 1cm thick. Cut into pieces, prick with fork, and bake at 150ºC for 1/2 hour.

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

This is a slight variation of a recipe from Alison Holst’s Bread Book

2 tsp Surebake yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tblsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tblsp olive oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp oregano
1 Tblsp olive oil

Topping
2 Tblsp olive oil
2 Tblsp chopped rosemary leaves

Measure the first five ingredients into a large bowl with 1 1/2 cups of the flour, and mix. Cover and leave in a warm place for 15 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and oregano, adding a little extra warm water or flour if necessary to make a dough just firm enough to knead.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes, adding extra flour if necessary, until it forms a soft dough that springs back when gently pressed.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for about a minute.

Turn the dough onto a baking paper lined tray and form into an oval. Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until double the original size.

Pour the second quantity of oil evenly over the surface and dimple the surface with your fingertips. Spread the top with two tablespoons of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary leaves.

Bake at 225ºC for 15 minutes.

To make in breadmaker

Measure the first seven ingredients into the breadmaker. Set to DOUGH cycle and START. When the cycle is complete, shape and bake as for handmade instructions.