Lovely Lambrigg

I think that I would have to join a queue of people almost as long as that at the National Gallery, who would now like to move to Lambrigg homestead (should the opportunity ever arise) after last weekend’s Open Garden event. I’ve always wanted to visit the property, whose views along the Murrumbidgee can be glimpsed on the left hand side of the road once you have gone over Point Hut Crossing.

Several thousand people took the opportunity last weekend to vicariously enjoy the view from the verandah and the extensive lawns and gardens that were looking resplendent following our recent rain. If that wasn’t enough there were 26 exhibitors with every type of plant, garden ornament, plant related book. You could look at the stock or climb the hill to see William and Nina Farrer’s graves. For those with a more practical bent they have a very large leaf composting enclosure.

Several old friends were there. TB bought a book on Home Smoking and Curing Meat from Dalton’s Books and friend M and I stocked up on seeds from the Italian Gardener. This time we purchased Turnip Greens Cima di Rapa Quarantina – there was a great recipe using them on Italian Food Safari last week – globe carrots Pariser Markt and Black Winter Radish, d’inverno nero tondo.

Strezlecki Heritage Apples from Gippsland had a fantastic array of varieties of both apples and pears to try. There were eating, dessert and cooking apples and apples and pears for cider and perry making. I was very taken by the apple Alan’s Pearmain. If you are looking for heritage apples I’d seriously consider contacting Strezleckis who do mail order of bare rooted stock in winter. They are also willing to discuss specific rootstock choices to meet your requirements (email: ).

There was also a wide range of garden sculpture to suit all tastes on display. Al Phemister, whose work we saw at Jugiong was there, along with John Topfer Sculptures, the Rusty Roof and Brock Metalcraft. I’m seriously smitten by Brock’s Poppy Head plant support, which I envisage my Sweet Peas twining up, should they ever actually germinate that is. Sadly I wasn’t fast enough on the day and all were sold before I could select some for my own. Anyway there is hope on the horizon and I’m planning to place an order in the coming weeks. Perhaps they’ll arrive at Chez Fork in time for my Scarlet Runner Beans.

On the more rustic end of the scale the Rusty Roof (email: was selling great pieces made out of pre-loved corrugated iron. At last we were able to find something for M’s significant birthday present. She’s now the proud owner of her own compact house cow! And yes, the question of whether a metal cow produces tinned milk has come up!

Thanks to the Gullett family for opening their wonderful property to the ravening hoards.

PS if you didn’t make it to Lambrigg last week you can have a look at the story that ACT Stateline produced on the homestead.


Autumn Colour

Today I “screwed my courage to the sticking point” and faced the queue at the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition. Alright it really wasn’t that hard for me as I am a member of the Gallery and was able to walk past the line and go in at the members express entrance. At last a real pay-off for all those years of membership fees!

I had been to see the exhibition in January when there were, by comparison, next to no crowds. Short of people lining up to see Uncle Ho in Hanoi, I’ve rarely seen such devotion to a cause. At least there is a reward at the end of this queue. I personally think that the Van Gogh’s alone are worth the entry price to the show, not to mention a few Gauguin’s and other individual works.

It seemed as I bobbed through the mob that quite a few of the paintings were looking back at the visiting crowd – who were fascinating study in themselves. Vincent’s eyes, should you get in range of his self-portrait, can skewer you right through. Gauguin’s Tahitian women watch the crowd from slightly lowered eyes, while Lautrec’s Woman in the Black Boa looks on with scarcely restrained amusement. If it’s all too much for you then you can join Hammershøi’s Danish woman and turn your back on the lot of them.

Another deep impression – all puns intended – comes from the use of colour. Strong reds, chalky blues and Nile greens, acid yellows and startling purples. This was of the course the first generation of artists to take full advantage of the newly developed synthetic pigments developed by the European chemical companies. The results can be stunning, or in some cases just god-awful.

I’ve been looking at my garden, over the past few months, and noticing more than ever the impact of strong colours and shapes that can be found in the vegetables we grow. My Italian eggplant Prosperosa,  was the first that caught my eye. Our metre high amaranth with its deep crimson leaves is also an obvious choice. However, close observation of many plants brings its own rewards. Our sweet corn, way past the harvest time has developed dark mahogany red stems that contrast with the pale yellow and the still bright green of its remaining leaves.

Not all colour comes from the plants themselves. TB has dismantled, or perhaps that should be dismembered, the bed where our poly-tunnel experiment was carried out last year. One discard was a whole pile of bright blue synthetic twine that had been used to tie the pea straw bales that surrounded the bed. As I’m planting my snow peas into this bed I’d decided to use the string as the support for the peas. Half way through the job I realised that this was a great colour and it would really look striking against another strongly contrasting colour. Luckily for me I’d gone through a whole stack of different colour options when the kitchen was renovated a few years back and I still had the sample pots to prove it. Voila, my first foray into putting colour into my garden. I’m thinking of calling it ‘Red Poles’.


Making with Marrows ??? Pumpkin

TB cut our first pumpkin of the year to make an entrée for our dinner on Friday night. He made a pumpkin soufflé flavoured with goat’s cheese. Being himself he just made up the soufflé recipe – as you do! For those of us more challenged by the mere thought of a soufflé you can either use any recipe you have already tried or follow this recipe which I have previously used to make Sformata di Spinachi. Instead of the spinach add 250gms of cooked pumpkin. Add some grated parmesan to your white sauce and cut up very small cubes of goats cheese (about half a centimetre) to the mix just before you fold in the egg whites. Cook at 200° for 15 minutes, and then check your soufflé as it may need some further cooking for it to set properly.

Our main course was ham and vegetable soup. TB had hot-smoked a ham hock in the Webber and used it to make the stock base for the soup. The rest was a selection of garden vegetables diced and cooked in the stock. A piece of TB’s latest sourdough bread completed the meal.


Loriendale Apple Day

We decided to get out to Loriendale organic apple farm as early as possible to get a jump on the crowds that would turn up to celebrate this, their 20^th anniversary year. This was a good idea. We were able to get some chairs and sit ourselves in the shade of a Golden Ash that was just starting to turn its lovely golden colour.

It was disappointing that in their anniversary year the hot season and the cockatoos had resulted in a very small offering of apples compared to previous years. My guestimate was that they had a bout a third of the varieties I’d tried there in previous years. It shouldn’t be too surprising that the more familiar commercial varieties were dominating the offerings while the less common heritage varieties were fewer in number. I was particularly taken by Topaz variety, from the Czech Republic, and the Russian Svetava apple. I bought a bag of the Svetava’s which have the nice, slightly acidic finish that I enjoy in an apple. I also bought some figs. The apple offerings were supplemented by produce from other organic growers. We picked up several kilos of Dutch Cream potatoes from Ingelbara farm, as we have eaten our small crop already. The one thing that hadn’t diminished this year was the queue for the famous Loriendale Apple Pie.

Our companions stocked up on a range of Loriendale jams, pickles and chutneys. These were carried off in bags that had been decorated by students from the local primary school. As ever the day is helped along by the live music. This time we heard from the Forest National Chamber Orchestra and then by the Austrian International Choir.

After a cup of coffee and some lovely scones spread with Loriendale jam we collected our freshly squeezed apple juice and headed home.


Making with Marrows ??? Zucchini

The person who got me started on collecting compost from the office still often visits from the 10 th floor with offerings of excess produce. This week he dropped off one of his zeppelins. Unfortunately it had started going bad on one end, which meant that it didn’t find a home.

As we were having a divisional morning tea at the end of the week I decided to value add to the said zeppelin. I would contribute my own thank you to the people who have so assiduously filled my compostables bucket every couple of days by making a zucchini cake.

I found a good starter recipe on my favourite spot the SBS Food recipe page in their ‘by ingredient’ category.

Simone Logue’s Zucchini Cake with zesty lemon icing.

 Of course I didn’t have the walnuts she used in her recipe so I decided to use that old standby chocolate. I modified the recipe by bumping up the amount of zucchini to about 3 cups, and added 3 tablespoons of cocoa. This worked out really well and the cooking time was pretty much what was indicated in the recipe. I kept the lemon icing which worked a treat. I didn’t have any fresh lemons so used lemon juice in stead. This worked out just fine. The voracious hoards devoured the cake without a second thought.

The next day I used the remaining piece of zeppelin to make a second cake, which we ate after we’d been out to the Loriendale Apple Day – more of that anon. As I’d used up all the self-raising flour for the first cake I used the same quantity of all purpose flour and two teaspoons of bi-carb soda instead. The second cake was a bit denser than the first but the flavour was still very good. My friend’s Italian-born mother was wondering out aloud after eating a slice, why Italians had never traditionally turned zucchinis into cakes.


Making with Marrows – Spaghetti Squash

Not content with domination of the garden the marrows are now moving in and taking over the kitchen. This is the first year we’ve grown spaghetti squash and it’s proved to be as easy to cook as it has been to grow.

A whole spaghetti squash will be able to feed six people easily so we generally work with a half a squash at a time. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place your squash in a microwave-safe plastic bag and give it about 5 minutes on high. You can test whether it is ready by poking the flesh (not the skin) with a fork. It should be easy to scrape the flesh out. If it’s still hard give it another minute and check again. Once its cooked you can basically serve it with whatever sauce you fancy. Any traditional spaghetti sauce will do.

For our first big meal we used a sauce made of roasted garden vegetables. Included in the mix were lots of over-ripe tomatoes, and a few green ones, eggplants, radish, onions, carrot, capsicum, mustard greens and lots of basil. These were roasted slowly for an hour and a bit with some olive oil and some salt and pepper. After roasting I used the food processor to blend them into a thick paste. What wasn’t used for the sauce was frozen for later. The roast veggie base was spiced up with about 1/3rd of a cup of tomato-chili chutney. Yummo.

One extra tip if you don’t have enough squash for your meal just add it to some cooked wheat spaghetti.

This post has been entered into Grow Your Own #40 for more details check out the notice over at Chez Annies.


Sitting in the garden

Today I was determined to get out into the garden … and just sit. This is as good a time as any to enjoy the Autumn weather, which is an extremely pleasant 26º today, clear skies with a light breeze. Most of the summer growing frenzy is past and while effort is being put into preparations for next Spring’s garden I can put my feet up for a bit.

I hand some hand sewing to do so I took that out and plonked myself at the table, under our Japanese Maple and Omeo Gum (Eucalyptus neglecta) along with a cup of coffee. Before long the cat came along and crashed out on the chair next to me. When I have one of my ‘sitting’ days I do prefer to leave all electronic devices, radios and MP3 players inside. I really like to just sit and listen to what’s going on around me, birds, neighbours, traffic (often there is none for quite surprisingly long periods of time). The bonus today was that I finally got to see the newest members of our family.

You may recall that last week I mentioned the demise of our largest fish Klim, to causes unknown. Well it turned out that there was something else happening down in the pond. Yep, notwithstanding our clearly erroneous naming practices, Klim and Thorpy have produced a happy batch of little swimlets of their own. TB spotted them last week and rang me at work to ask when I’d gone out and bought the new fish! He managed to get one, not very exciting photo (look to the left of the arrow), but they are very nervous about large shapes moving around above their watery home. It’s taken over a week for me to spot them. They have clearly been around for some time as they are two to three centimetres long already. Some are sporting orange and black colours but there seem to be quite a few not so colourful ones as well.

Other welcome Autumnal returns include our saffron bulbs (Crocus sativus). We grew ours from corms from The Lost Seed. You’d have to contact the company directly to see if any were still available (I notice that their website says available from December to February or until sold out). Despite their high value as a crop it turns out that in Canberra these bulbs, in our experience at least, can be pretty much left to their own devices as far as growing is concerned. Ours are planted in the raised bed along with the asparagus and rhubarb, that is with other things that get planted and then get left undisturbed for the rest of the time. I’ve included some photos we took of the flowers and the harvested stigmas from 2009. The bulbs do seem to have multiplied so hopefully we’ll increase our harvest this year. Yes, we did get more than just this one flower.



Our apple trees are currently too small to be producing fruit and I’m sure that our hot dry conditions have not helped in the least over the past year. However there is no shortage of apples available in and around Canberra.

TB has been making regular runs out to Pialligo on his day off and is bringing back all sorts of goodies for a variety of apple projects. A good listing of the Pialligo Orchards and their products can be found here.

Our favourite place to buy apples is Pialligo Apples, 10 Beltana Rd. You’d possibly be more familiar with it as the very rustic roadside shed with large shrubs growing all around it. There are always samples to try and as they grow over 60 apple varieties there’s plenty to taste and experiment with throughout the season. So far we have tried Boskoop, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Cleopatra, Royal Gala, Golden Delicious and Reine de Reinette.

So far TB has made two batches of cider. The first batch has been made out of ‘seconds’ of Royal Gala and the second batch which, is currently bubbling away, is predominantly ‘seconds’ of Golden Delicious.

TB has also been making lots of high-top apple and apple and blackberry pies which have been very well received by friends and family alike. Last night he made us a small galette of Reine de Reinette, topped with some raspberries from the garden and glazed with our home-made apricot jam. I’d love to be able to share the aroma with you but you’ll just have to do with the photo.

Speaking of apples there is a great annual event on next Saturday 27 March from 1.30 to 5.00pm, Apple Day at Loriendale Orchard 2 km north of the ACT border on the Barton Highway. We went last year for the first time and were overwhelmed by the variety of apples growing and available for tasting. Take some sturdy bags if you are going because you’ll need them to carry all those tasty apples home. Apple juice and other goodies are also available on the day.