Onions take quite a long time to grow, I’ve found. They look architectural in the veg bed – someone described them as like giant chives. My brown onions have been disappointing – just brown stumps at the end of their stalk. However the white onions have been a delight. Big juicy round bulbs. It seemed a pity just to use them in various dishes, so I thought they deserved a longer life by making Onion Marmalade with them.
This is a simple recipe based on 2:2:1 with only four ingredients but has produced a wonderful rich caramelised jam.
1 kg sliced onions (I used white)
1 kg white sugar
500 ml white vinegar
3 tablespoons sea salt (less if you use table salt)
Combine sugar, vinegar and salt in a heavy based large pan and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Bring to the boil and add onions. Bring back to the boil.
Reduce and simmer, stirring occasionally until jam thickens and goes a rich golden caramel. This may take 3 – 5 hours.
Skim off any scum and allow to sit for 15 – 30 minutes.
Place in clean sterilised jars and seal. Store in cupboard. I made 6 small jars.
Particularly in Summer, I like a light salad and often put together an Asian-type salad with rice noodles, tossed with garden (and supermarket) veg, including cucumber, carrots, red capsicum and shallots with, of course, heaps of coriander and parsley. For a more substantial meal, I add in sliced chargrilled marinated chicken (or beef or pork) or maybe even prawns if I’ve made the trip to Mudgee. Whilst it’s lovely the first night with fresh warm meat tossed in, it gets even better over the next two days as the dressing develops.
Anyway, after much experimenting, the following simple ingredients work well for me. There are lots more complex recipes available and you can add more herbs and spices such as lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, but I find the following is quick and practical and you can keep in a jar in the fridge.
I planted potatoes back in August – proper certified seed potatoes, eight varieties. I planted them in potato sacks and religiously followed instructions. It was exciting to see the first green tendrils poke through and I kept topping the bags up with straw as instructed. Up until early November they looked incredibly healthy. Until…
Until the two soul-destroying heavy falls of hail mulched them, followed by those nasty little sucking insects. Anyway, a recovery plan has helped get most of the bags looking reasonable again but they still haven’t flowered. Under instruction and many words of encouragement, I have dug out one of the bags and found 8 small potatoes (250g to be precise). I hope these are more than I originally planted but fear they may be the same ones! Royal Blue.
Needless to say, the potato planting efforts have been a disappointment. I’ve put a lot of care into them for little return. The bags have also not been an outstanding success and look as though they are tearing the first year. This was the sickest looking bag, so I’m hoping for a little more from the others but am not overly optimistic.
On the other hand, some of the veggies are being wonderful. Probably one of the things better than picking, cooking and eating your own veg is being able to give them away. I have a lovely neighbour who has made me feel part of the community from day one and always seems to appreciate some home-grown veg (or she is being extremely diplomatic). A small mixed tray including harlequin carrots, lady finger eggplants, zucchini, cherry toms, onions and capsicum looked cheerful on a hot summer’s day.
I won’t give up on potatoes but will definitely adjust my expectations and approach. Something tells me that the self-sown ones from the compost that have popped up in one of the garden beds may provide better results than all my efforts.
The Convent veg beds are flourishing and I need to harvest crops regularly. The spinach is going well. I don’t actually remember planting it and have a feeling it may be coming from seeds scattered by locals who tend to regularly contribute to my garden beds.
Anyway, today was Spinach Day and lots of picking happened for a spinach slice which turned out very well – served with garden salad on the side.
Pretty simple recipe:
lots of freshly picked spinach
block of feta cheese
lots of grated mature cheese
Butter and olive oil
salt and pepper for seasoning
Melt a knob of butter and sauté lots and lots of chopped fresh spinach (stalks included) until wilted
Lightly beat eggs and combined with crumbled feta, grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper
Add drained wilted spinach mixture
Lightly oil baking dish
Lay filo sheets in baking dish – brush each one with butter/oil – use 8/10 sheets
Spread spinach mixture over the top
Top with more sheets of filo, each brushed with butter
Place in preheated oven (approx 200 degrees) for 30/40 minutes
Making use of the strawberries while I can. Hopefully I’ll get different varieties of berries soon (if I can keep the bugs at bay). In the meantime, at least I’m preserving a sense of berries for future guests. Hopefully I can gather enough for some jam soon.
Dissolve 1 cup of sugar with one cup of water
Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes
Stir in blended berries
Put through a sieve. Don’t force as liquid will be glunky
Pour into sterilised bottles
I’ve labelled mine and put into the fridge to be on the safe side
It’s getting late at the Convent, the night before Christmas. The fairy lights are twinkling and the fridges are laden. Christmas cake is cooked and pudding is hanging. A pavlova and raspberry ripple semifreddo are finished (along with earlier mixed berry sorbet and strawberry icecream courtesy of the berry bed).
The ham is glazed, a turkey breast is stuffed with cranberries and pistachios and a rolled and seasoned pork loin awaits. Grossly over catered for one day but I’m hoping it will feed us for the few days after so the cook can put her feet up. My first Convent Christmas.
Now that the Convent will be my permanent home, and I have no immediate plans for work, I’ve realised it is important that I make the most of what I’m doing at the Convent and also do justice to the garden produce.
After the first planting of the garden beds, I know now to plant what I will actually use, not just what seems interesting to try and watch grow. This round of veg is very practical – things I know will grow and I will eat. Lots of leafy veg, my mini tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum, beans … and I’m beginning to benefit from the produce.
I had a now deleted draft post on whether the broad beans were worth the effort. I had planted them in a few spots, not knowing how they would behave and for a long time I just had l tall plants taking up room but not doing a lot. How wrong I was. After suffering unruly plants falling all over my garden beds and dominating other plants, I’ve now harvested over 4 kilos of podded beans to place in my freezer. That’s after eating and giving away possibly that much again. They were heavy cropping wonderful produce and will again be included, although not in the raised beds – they are better against the wall where I can stake them against the heavy Kandos winds.
I’ve been picking half a dozen strawberries a day to include with my breakfast and they took quite a hiding from sampling visitors during the garden fair, but I’ve managed to pick 400g for the first batch of strawberry icecream which is now sitting in the freezer. I’m looking forward to the removalists arriving next week as I really need my big fridge here. The berries are only just starting and I can see Youngberries, Blueberries and Rasberries all forming and some beginning to show colour. Not sure I will have enough for jam this year but there will me more icecream and some syrups to put away.
The herbs are going crazy and I’m letting plants go to seed so I can continue to propagate without purchasing new plants (I hope). Next on the list is storing some herb butters – parsley, tarragon and chive are the obvious ones.
I’m enjoying the industry, but I also appreciate the practicalities of owning and running the property and making the most of the efforts put into establishing the garden.
One of the few vegetables I planted when I first arrived (even before moving in) was tomatoes – mainly the cherry variety. These are great little plants and fruit – being able to pick a handful of mixed varieties for a salad for one person, or harvesting a larger crop for entertaining or preserving. The cherry plants are also a little more manageable than some of the more rampant varieties.
This year is no different, just that I now have more room and can plant more. As usual, like the potatoes, I have approached this with enthusiasm and seem to have collected lots of plants that now need to be planted. The back garden wall is an excellent location, offering lots of sun and is fully wired which saves me from staking. I’m also using terracotta pots and the raised veg beds. I’ve overdone it and think a few may find their way into neighbour’s gardens. So far for the cherries I have:
Yellow Pear (a favourite visually for colour and shape – tastes good too)
Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
Black Cherry (sounds dramatic)
Little Sugar Yellow
For larger varieties I have
Tumbling Red Tom
Beef Steak (sounds like a “Man’s Tomato”)
This time, all varieties are clearly tagged so I can determine the best performers (or best locations). I’ll also collect and label seeds. It’s been a bit disappointing that I don’t seem to have plants coming up from last year’s crop. I was careful to leave some of the tomatoes to self-seed. Well, it’s still early in the season.