Convent Corn Fritters


A simple tasty rustic treat for an easy but tasty brunch, lunch or even dinner.

  • 2 cans (420g) corn kernels, drained  (or less if you substitute something like cooked chicken for some corn)
  • 6 spring onions/shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 generous tablespoons of Polenta (I use a coarse grain)
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Combine all ingredients other than olive oil
  • Heat oil in a non-stick pan
  • Add corn fritters in large spoonfuls. Try and keep in neat mounds by edging egg run-off back to the fritter
  • Cook on first side approximately 5 minutes and 3 minutes on second side.
  • Remove and drain on paper towels
  • Serve with tossed salad. An addition of a tomato relish or slow roasted cherry tomatoes is a nice touch. Can also be served with crispy bacon

I have made this just with corn as well as combining with cooked chicken. Both have been delicious.

Onion Marmalade


IMG_1953Onions 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.


Simple Asian Style Salad Dressing

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.

  • four parts lime juice
  • four parts fish sauce
  • one part soy sauce
  • two parts palm sugar (grated) or other sugar
  • a slug of sesame oil

Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously.

Famine or Feast? The lot of a veggie grower

Possibly the original potatoes I planted!
Possibly the original potatoes I planted!

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.

IMG_1927On 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.

Spinach Slice – Convent Style


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.

Lots and lots of fresh old fashioned spinach
Lots and lots of fresh old fashioned spinach

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
  • 5 eggs
  • block of feta cheese
  • lots of grated mature cheese
  • Filo pastry
  • grated nutmeg
  • Butter and olive oil
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
Chopped and ready for wilting - a really big saucepan
Chopped and ready for wilting – a really big saucepan

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


Plenty left over for the freezer
Plenty left over for the freezer

Strawberry Syrup


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.


  • Blend berries
  • Dissolve 1 cup of sugar with one cup of water
  • Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes
  • Cool syrup
  • 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

The Christmas Feast

The glazed ham - a staple for Christmas
The glazed ham – a staple for Christmas

Whilst the first Convent Christmas dinner was a little late getting to the table (just after 2pm), diners made no attempt to leave the table until nearly 6pm.

A very traditional fare, but I was pleased with the results, particularly given the small galley kitchen. Perhaps Christmas in July should be on the Convent Calendar for 2014.

Lots of Christmas meat - ham, rolled loin of pork with dried apples, prunes and apricots (crackling worked) and turkey breast filled with cranberries and pistachios
Lots of Christmas meat – ham, rolled loin of pork with dried apples, prunes and apricots (crackling worked) and turkey breast filled with cranberries and pistachios
Jamie Oliver's Christmas gravy was consumed with gusto
Jamie Oliver’s Christmas gravy was consumed with gusto.
The pudding complete with brandy custard and brandy butter. A pavlova was also available but the raspberry ripple terrine will need to wait for another day.
The pudding complete with brandy custard and brandy butter. A pavlova was also available but the raspberry ripple terrine will need to wait for another day.

One More Sleep


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.

Putting the Convent to Work


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.

IMG_1760I’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.


Tomato Planting Time

Tomatoes in pots
Tomatoes in pots

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:

Tomatoes on the back wall
Tomatoes on the back wall
  • Cherry Gold
  • Orange Sunrise
  • Sweetbite
  • Grape Toms
  • Yellow Pear (a favourite visually for colour and shape – tastes good too)
  • Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
  • Cherry Ripe
  • Cherry Roma
  • Truss Sweet
  • Cocktail
  • Mini Roma
  • Black Cherry (sounds dramatic)
  • Sun Drop
  • Little Sugar Yellow
  • Pink Cherry
  • Cherry Falls

For larger varieties I have

  • Tumbling Red Tom
  • Tumbler Yellow
  • Grosse Lisse
  • Beef Steak (sounds like a “Man’s Tomato”)
  • Black Russian

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.

Tomatoes in the veg beds. I'm sure I can find a few more places for them. I'll have to!
Tomatoes in the veg beds. I’m sure I can find a few more places for them. I’ll have to!