Comfort food from home

When we were growing up casseroles equalled comfort food.  They were prepared for  a family meal, a variety of different casseroles were cooked to feed a house full of guests, and they were central to cool weather fundraisers for the community.

Casserole luncheons brought the community together, with each family preparing a casserole to be placed on cloth covered trestle tables that had been set up for the occasion in the local hall.  There would be a small admission fee, raffles, maybe a cake stall, and all funds raised would be directed to a local community project, or to a cause that was close to the heart of the community.

While the casseroles back then were cooked in beautiful ovenproof dishes, dishes that could be taken straight from the oven to the table, I feel that they have somehow fallen out of fashion…  I suppose now, you could liken them to the modern day slow cooker dish.

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In the Garden – May 2022

The Citrus Garden

I’ve been conjuring up a plan to start planting vegetables outside of the vegetable garden, and it’s slowly coming to fruition.   The first garden on my list was the Citrus Garden, and rather than trying to work the entire garden, I mixed up a batch of manure and garden compost, and then proceeded to work it into the areas that I wanted to plant up.  With that done, the first thing that I wanted to do was relocate the broad leaf sage and then plant a traditional sage plant next to it.   With that quick task done, I set to work on the area where the Russian kale seedlings were to be planted, it looked like I had planted pvc pipe rather than seedlings, but it had a purpose.

You may, or may not note that I’m trying to keep walkways between the areas that are being planted for easy access.  The pathways will become compacted from being walked on, while the areas that are being planted up, mulched etc, will not – well that is the plan…  The little pathways will also provide easy access for weeding, planting and so forth.  The birds, however, have a different plan, and I now need to walk around, rake in hand, raking the mulch off the pathways and back onto the garden!

As the month progressed, I planted broccoli – Chinese (Kailaan), onions  – Barletta, French shallots, Swiss chard and begamot.

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Strawberries

Already in place were quite a few strawberries, including three strawberry plants, ‘Reine des Vallees’.  Once you taste these little strawberries you really begin to understand what a strawberry should taste like.

The three ‘Reine des Vallees’ plants have thrived since planting, but as they are a clumping type of strawberry, they have very few runners, so anything that looks like it may have potential is pinned down to the soil to encourage growth.  The other interesting point  about this plant is that it doesn’t rely on the length of the day to produce fruit!  I find this fascinating, and am still amazed that I am continuing to pick berries now – the only problem is that they don’t make it into the kitchen, rather, they go straight into my mouth!

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I’m hoping that I can stop eating these delicious little berries straight from the plant so that I can make a simple little, refreshing sweet treat that I think they would be delicious in – Fresh Berries in Apple Jelly – no added sugar and just three ingredients!

Fresh Berries in Apple Jelly
Created for something light and refreshing to serve alongside a rich chocolate dessert!
Category: Brunch, Dessert
Style: Australian
Keyword: Apple, Berries, Fruit Jelly, Jelly
Quantity: 6 small glasses
Author: sbaskitchen
Ingredients
  • 300 ml pink lady apple juice
  • 3 gelatine leaves
  • 150 g of berries
Instructions
  1. Carefully warm the apple juice in a saucepan.
  2. Soften the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the softened leaves to the apple juice and stir over a low heat just enough to dissolve the gelatine, then remove from the heat, strain into a jug and allow to cool, (but not set).

  4. Pour a little of the cooled jelly mixture into the base of your glasses and allow it to just set in the refrigerator.
  5. Arrange a layer of berries on top, then add a little more jelly to cover the fruit.
  6. Refrigerate until set. Continue to build up the layers of berries by allowing them to set in the jelly before adding more.
  7. This will ensure the berries are evenly dispersed through the jelly.
  8. Allow to set in the refrigerator before serving.
Notes
  • If the remaining jelly starts to become too firm before you need it, simply warm it a little and then allow it to cool before adding the next layer of jelly and berries.

 

I don’t think that there is room for anything else in this garden at the moment, so just need to maintain and nurture!   That hasn’t stopped me from planning what to plant when the warmer months approach, though!

The Veggie Patch

Plantings
  • Broccoli – Purple Sprouting – Early (Bed #4)
  • Romanesco Broccoli interspersed with garlic in the little space left in Bed #6
  • Cabbage – Sugarloaf, and Broccoli – White Sprouting seedlings into veggie bed #9.  When that was done, I planted a basket full of golden shallots in between the rows.
  • Broccoli  – Green Sprouting and Spring Onion – White Lisbon (Bed #10)

A Peak into the Vegie Patch –
Beds 6, 10 and 9

Veggie Patch Plan

Weeding & Tidying

The root veg bed (bed #6) is neat and tidy, weeded  and mulched , the carrots are a bit patchy though – I’m having so much trouble with pests enjoying the tender carrot tops.  While I wasn’t sure if I should, I decided to tansplant the swede turnip seedlings, only time will tell if it was the right thing to do.  One thing though, the parsnips are looking fabulous!

With the tomato plants nearing the end of their productivity, it was time to remove the plants and dispose of them, and then bundle the stakes for storage.   Any tomatoes that were still green were removed from the plants and spread out on trays indoors for ripening.  It all takes time, but is rewarding to see everything tidied up and still have tomatoes for a while after the plants were removed.

Finally I found time to do some work on the compost bins, closing off compost bin #2.   Compost bin #3 is now being filled, but  I still have to empty compost bin #4, which is a wire frame that I use to finish off the compost, once that’s done I can move the contents of bin #1 into it for finishing.

Some seed sowing & Propagating

I have only had time to plant a few seeds – I know that it was late, but it was worth it.

  • Cauliflower ‘All Year Round’ (old seed), these seeds have proven to be too old and did not germinate, but there was no harm trying.
  • Cauliflower ‘Green Macerata’ (planted 3 May – germinated 9 May)
  • Cauliflower ‘Purple Siciliy'(planted 3 May – germinated 7 May)

On a whim, I also scattered a mixture of salad seeds in a tub just outside the back door.  I have no idea what’s in it, I can just recall mixing a whole heap of old seeds some time ago, figuring that they may make a nice cut and grow planting! They were old seeds then, but it seems that sometimes it just doesn’t matter.

Seed mix scattered into a pot, coming through.

During a recent break at a little coastal village,  I collected a few cuttings, I just can’t help myself!  They have all been potted and now I must wait…

  • Ivy Geranium – such a pretty pink…
  • Perfumed geranium – I think it’s citronella
  • Succulents
  • Osteospermum (African Daisy) – Purple
  • Osteospermum (African Daisy – White
  • Bougainvillea – Pink

If the bougainvillea cutting doesn’t strike, I think that I may just have to go and buy one – how good does it look in the terracotta pot?

Spring bulbs arrived

When you receive the spring bulb catalogues it is just sooooo hard not to order everything, so what I do is select just a few and order 12 -15 of each, that way I can plant up a pot with one variety or just plant one variety all together in the garden for more of an impact.   I’m looking forward to seeing my little selection in bloom…

  • Narcissus – Daffodil ‘Love Call’
  • Tulipa hybrida – Triumph Tulip ‘Timeless’ – planted in a pot
  • Tulipa hybrida – Triumph Tulip ‘Strong Gold’ – planted in a pot
  • Tulipa hybrida – Bokassa Tulip ‘Rose’

However, each year I get an email advising of a mystery box of bulbs – honestly, who can resist!  I love this little surprise packet, discovering the contents and working out where I will plant its contents.

This year’s mystery package included:

  • Allium sativum  – Garlic. ‘Australian White’ (2 bulbs) – having already planted my garlic, I managed to find some space and planted these in Vegie bed #6
  • Hyacinthoides hispanica – Spanish Bells Blue (10 bulbs) – planted in Duchesses’ Garden
  • Ipheion uniflorum syn. Triteleia uniflorum – Spring Star ‘Light Blue’ (50 bulbs) – planted in the Woodland Forest Garden
  • Iris x hollandica – Dutch Iris Mixed (30 bulbs) – planted in pots
  • Freesia refracta alba – Freesia refracta alba ‘Grandma Freesias’ (20 bulbs)
  • Narcissus – Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’ (5 bulbs) – planted with existing patch of ‘Ice Follies’ in the Mauve Garden
  • Narcissus – Daffodil ‘Las Vegas’ (3 bulbs)
  • NarcissusDaffodil – Mixed (25 bulbs) – planted in pots
  • Narcissus – Daffodil ‘Tête-à-tête’ (5 bulbs) – planted with existing patch of ‘Tête-à-tête’ in the Spring Bulb Garden
  • Narcissus – Daffodil ‘Sunlover’ (5 bulbs) – planted with existing patch of ‘Sunlover’ in the Spring Bulb Garden
  • Narcissus jonquilla – Jonquil ‘Grand Monarch’ (5 bulbs)
  • Ornithogalum arabicum – Black Pearl Lily (6 bulbs)
  • Ranunculus asiaticus – Ranunculi ‘Red’ (20 corms) – planted in the ‘Laundry Garden’
  • Tulipa hybrida – Double Tulip ‘Chato’ (3 bulbs) – planted in a pot
  • Tulipa hybrida – Triumph Tulip ‘Denmark’ (4 bulbs) planted in a pots

Well, that was a little snippet from the garden in May.

Until next time…

Happy gardening

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Oh how I love the food and flavours of the Middle East

While the countries that are encompassed in the region, or if you prefer, term “The Middle East” can lead to many arguments, I prefer to use them to bring about discussions of recipes and delicious food that can be shared by all.   With food that is vibrant, colourful and aromatic,  many Middle Eastern countries share recipes that are very similar, in fact the same dish in the same country can have many nuances, depending on who is cooking it, and what is available at the time.

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Sweet Chilli Sauce – A little fire from the garden

When the garden gives you chillies…

This year I planted out five chilli plants that I’d grown indoors over winter, doing this, gave them a huge head start when planted out.  For those who are chilli aficionados, they weren’t anything exciting, but the cayennes were self sown, dug up and brought indoors for the winter,  while the Long Reds were grown from saved seed, which kind of makes it all the more special!  The result… A wonderful chilli harvest – the best ever!  So there was only one thing to do…

Make sweet chilli sauce, of course!

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A little knowledge sharing…

After years of wanting to do this, but not having the confidence to venture forward with the idea, now, after receiving much encouragement from those around me, in less than two weeks time I will be running my first Knowledge Sharing Session at a local Neighbourhood House.  Yes, I am a little nervous, but I am also a little excited!  So I thought I would share what we will be doing in the first session.  It will be all about sauerkraut, or as they call it in France, choucroute, and we may even touch on growing your own cabbages at home.

Sauerkraut or choucroute, has become increasingly popular in recent times.  It’s seen as a way to improve gut health, easing digestive symptoms and supporting your immune system by adding probiotics and enzymes to your diet.

I just love toasted sourdough with a little Dijon mustard and melted cheese, topped with sauerkraut for breakfast each day.

Toast with Dijon mustard, melted, cheese and sauerkraut.

The other great benefit of making sauerkraut, and one that I think sometimes gets ignored in these times, is that it is a fabulous way of preserving cabbage when it’s in season.  I love to use this sauerkraut to make delicious, warming, comfort food during the colder months of the year Continue reading