Garden Journal – August

With another winter almost over and spring just around the corner, the gardens and roadsides are coming to life with blossom-covered trees. The tuis adore the nectar they provide at this time of year. Nick took these photos of a tui drinking from the blossom flowers where he is working at the moment.

Tui

Tui

Tui drinking nectar

The bright yellow flowers of the wattle trees have been adding a splash of sunshine to the winter days. I wish we had room for one in our garden. I love the Golden Wattles with their clusters of small pompom flowers that we see when we go for walks.

Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle

The weather is warming up and new growth is emerging, with flowers appearing that have been dormant over the winter months. I’ve been planning what to plant in my garden this year, drawing diagrams, making sure to rotate the crops where I have room, and reading through my companion planting book to make sure not to plant things next to each other which don’t get on. I’ve started a few seeds off inside to get a head start. A little glasshouse is on my wish list, the trouble is finding somewhere in the garden to put one!

I have been keeping a garden journal for a year now. I started last September, at the beginning of spring. It’s interesting to look back over a complete cycle of the seasons and see how the garden changes.

august garden journal

Our broccoli are finally ready for harvesting. I cut the main heads off and and let the plants continue to grow so that they form side-shoots.

broccoli

Broccoli and Mushroom Gratin

1 large head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, melted
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Cut the broccoli into florets and steam until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Place in lightly greased baking dish.

Heat the oil and saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion begins to soften and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Spread mixture over broccoli.

Heat the butter or non-dairy spread in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until smooth, then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Pour the sauce over the broccoli mixture in the dish.

Stir together the melted butter, breadcrumbs and remaining cheese, and sprinkle over the gratin.

Bake about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

broccoli & mushroom gratin

Garden Journal – July

The first of our winter bulbs are blooming. The sweet little snowdrops with their hanging heads of pure white were the first to appear, closely followed by the little double jonquils in the corner of the garden beneath the trees. They look like miniature cream roses and their scent is amazing!

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Jonquils

Jonquils

Our citrus trees are producing an abundance of fruit this winter. Lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges – infusing the cold winter days with the tangy taste of summer.

Grapefruit & orange trees

Grapefruit & orange trees

garden journal-July

There is nothing nicer on a cold winter’s night than a comforting pudding. Self-saucing puddings are easy to make and can be adapted to different flavours. For this one I used lemons and limes from our trees to give it a nice citrusy flavour. If it doesn’t all get eaten the first night, it is nice cold the next day when the sponge has soaked up the flavours, leaving a little jelly-like  sauce on the bottom.

Lemon and Lime Self-saucing Pudding

50g butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Syrup
¾ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour
2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg. Stir in zest, citrus juices and milk. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix well and place into deep, greased baking dish. Mix syrup ingredients together and pour over batter. Bake 30 minutes.

lemon & lime self-saucing pudding

Garden Journal – June

Winter has brought us an interesting mix of weather this month with some rain and cloudy days, interspersed with chilly morning frosts followed by brilliant sunshine that just makes you want to get out in the garden and mingle with nature.

We made a little memorial garden for Cody next to the decking in our backyard, where we see it every time we go outside. We miss her terribly and still feel her presence everywhere. We planted winter flowers – pansies, primroses and dianthus, and I transplanted some forget-me-not seedlings to flower later. The little dog ornament looks so much like Cody!

Cody's Garden

Our wonderful friend, Erica, gave us a tin of  Yates heritage seeds to plant in our garden in memory of Cody. The seeds commemorate 130 years of Yates in New Zealand, and the tin comes with a little booklet telling the story of Arthur Yates, who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1879. Following in his family’s tradition of seed merchants, he opened the first of his seed shops in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1883.

Inside the tin there are 10 varieties of heritage flower and vegetable seeds – pansies, sunflowers, tomatoes and carrots, to name a few. I can’t wait for spring to come so I can start planting them!

Yates seeds

Garden journal - June

It’s lovely to have herbs in the garden over winter to add to stews and soups, stuffings, breads and vegetable dishes. One of my favourite winter meals is soup and crusty bread. For this vegetable and lentil soup I used seasonal vegetables from one of our local market gardens and garnished it with parsley from our garden. For the herbed cheese bread I used organic goat’s cheese, and rosemary and sage from our garden. You can use whatever seasonal herbs you have in the garden. In the summer it would be nice with basil and oregano. Or if you don’t have herbs growing in the garden, it can just as easily be made with dried herbs.

Herbed Cheese Bread

3 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheese
½ cup chopped fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
2 tablespoons oil
1¼ cups warm water

To make by hand:
In a large bowl, mix together flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cheese and herbs. Make a well in the centre, then slowly add the oil and water, stirring to form a soft dough, and adding a little extra flour if necessary. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and and knead for 10 minutes until the dough forms a soft ball. Shape into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl, then shape into a round loaf and place onto a greased baking tray. Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size. Preheat oven to 200º C. Dust bread with a little flour, cut criss crosses into the top, then bake for 30 minutes, covering top during cooking if it starts to burn.

Alternatively, the dough can be made in a breadmaker, then shaped into a round, placed on a baking tray and left to rise as above.

Herbed Cheese Bread

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

400g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
200g potatoes, peeled and chopped
100g broccolli, cut into florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons lentils
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup milk or cream (or soya milk or oat milk)
parsley to garnish

Place first 7 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes. Puree or blend. Add milk and seasoning to taste. Heat without boiling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Gingerbread Cupcakes

In my novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, Jodi enjoys baking cupcakes to take along to the weekly scrapbooking classes at Wattle Lane Keepsakes. Here is another of the recipes that she makes for the women in the group to enjoy when they stop for a coffee break.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

125g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
175g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line 12-hole muffin pan with paper cases.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add sifted dry ingredients, then milk, and mix to combine. Divide mixture between paper cases. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cool, then dust with icing sugar or ice with ginger frosting.

Ginger Frosting

50g softened butter or dairy-free spread
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons milk (or soya milk or oat milk)

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and sifted icing sugar and ginger. Add milk and beat to spreadable consistency.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

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

Foods that remind me of Grandma

Grandma's Seed Cake

When I was a child, once a year we would make the 300km journey to stay with my grandparents for a week during the summer school holidays. There were five of us—Mum, Dad, my sister, brother and me, and we travelled in a small Hillman Imp with our dog, Topsy, on Mum’s knee.

I have fond memories of those holidays, and especially of Grandma’s cooking. To this day, the smell of mint takes me back to Grandma’s roast lamb with mint sauce. Every night she would cook a delicious pudding. There were steamed puddings with custard, Apple Roll, Lemon Surprise Pudding, rice puddings, and Pretending Tommy made with homemade jam or fruit.

I remember the stewed plums for breakfast, and scones or ginger gems for lunch. For afternoon tea there would be homemade biscuits and cakes. Two that remain etched in my memory are Canadian Date Cake and Seed Cake. Grandma’s is the only place I can ever remember having eaten seed cake.

Recently my mother and I were going through Grandma’s old recipe books and we found one from the 1920’s. Although it is moth-eaten and stained, it was fascinating looking through the recipes, some of which we still make today. The cover of the book was missing, but we could tell from the advertisements that it was a local recipe book with recipes contributed from members of the community. It was amusing to see ads for the ‘latest’ motor cars. The recipe book is truly a slice of history and a family heirloom to treasure.

  recipe book5

recipe book3

recipe book4

recipe book2

After finding Grandma’s Seed Cake recipe in one of her books, I bought some caraway seeds to try it out. The recipe is simple to make, yet has a unique taste and texture, and as I bite into it I am transported back to those childhood holidays spent at Grandma and Granddad’s during those hot, humid summers. While my grandparents are no longer with us, those memories will remain with me forever, ignited by the smell of mint, the crunch of a caraway seed, the comfort of a warm steamed pudding with custard.

seed cake

Seed Cake

125 g butter (I used dairy-free spread)
125 g sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon whisky or brandy
175 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in whisky or brandy. Add beaten eggs alternately with flour, baking powder and caraway seeds previously mixed.
Bake 45 minutes at 180ºC.

Instead of whisky or brandy, I used ½ teaspoon vanilla essence. I don’t remember if Grandma ever iced hers, but I iced mine with lemon icing.

Grandma

Grandma

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