Garden Journal – April

April is a pretty time of the year with trees turning beautiful shades of autumn hues. Although we are only a month away from winter, it is 25º celsius here today! The seasons seem to be getting later and later every year. We picked the last of our zucchinis last week and our blueberries have finally come to an end. We got a lovely lot for the freezer. While there isn’t a great deal to harvest from the veggie garden at the moment, I have planted more cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers, as well as lettuces and beetroot.

We had heaps of cineraria seedlings spring up throughout the veggie garden from a couple of plants we had in there last year. They are one of my favourite flowers – especially the blues and purples. I have transplanted them throughout the rest of the garden, as well as borage plants which also self-seeded readily. Borage is a great bee plant, with its pretty blue star-shaped flowers, so is a good one to grow near the veggies.

April garden journal

April garden journal2

Rhubarb is a wonderful plant to have in the garden. Tucked away in a corner, it pretty much takes care of itself and it lasts for years and years. Although the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are high in dietary fiber and are a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Stewed rhubarb is nice to have for breakfast with cereal, and it can be used in all sorts of desserts. This month’s recipe is a rhubarb crumble, which is delicious served with cream, ice cream, custard, or yoghurt.

Rhubarb Crumble1

Rhubarb Crumble

3 cups diced rhubarb
¾ cup sugar
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tablespoons water

For the crumble:
50g butter or non-dairy spread
½ cup flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Place rhubarb in a dish. Sprinkle with sugar, orange rind and water.
To make crumble, rub the butter into the flour, oats and sugar until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in cinnamon.
Cover rhubarb with the crumble mix and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Rhubarb Crumble

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.