Good Afternoons

With the slightly warmer weather this past weekend we’ve been not only out and about but also out and doing in the garden.

On Saturday our friend J invited a group of us to come over for an afternoon tea and catch-up. I seem to recall spending all my childhood Sunday afternoons at my grandparents place for afternoon tea with the rellies so I knew the format. First a leisurely stroll around the garden. J has made great strides in her garden rennovations, removing scraggy ivy invading one space and re-planting with native plants. Now this space invites sitting with a cup of tea and a good book.  New wooden louvre partitions suddenly make the barbeque area into a distinct area for eating and a new bird nesting box is encouraging local native birds to drop by for a longer stay. Of course the veggie garden got a look in. It’s currently undergoing a major rennovation so the central patch of Jerusalem artichokes had been dug out – which led to that other afternoon visit tradition of claiming a garden memento – in this case some Jerusalem artichoke tubers – to take home.

Then there was the food …

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in copious quantities! Sherry cake, anzac biscuits, sausage rolls, apple cake, and grown-up chocolate crackles with sultanas and flavoured with cinnamon. One of the most popular choices were the cupcakes made by the youngest member of the party.

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I’m sorry, but I ate the one with the bright green icing before I thought to take the photo. Ah happy days! One thing that is an improvement on Sundays at my grandparents house – they certainly didn’t have as capable a barrista on hand as J’s husband proved to be.

Having eaten far too much on Saturday afternoon, TB and I spent Sunday out in the garden. I actually did plant my Jerusalem artichokes, in a tub, as they are renowned for their abity to spread pretty quickly, not to mention permanently, through your garden if left uncontained.

I also picked the remnants of my green tomatoes (not soon enough it turns out, for some were too frost damaged to be useable) to make my regular supply of green tomato pickles (recipe from A Year in a Bottle by Sally Wise).

Of course we did have to have a break and eat up some of the left over canoli filling in some puff pastry – marscapone, ricotta, with citrus peel, almonds and flavoured with rosewater – that didn’t get used up for the afternoon tea on Saturday.

Pastry_puffs

We also decided it was time to harvest the Warrigal greens before the leaves were completely anihilated by the frost.

Spinach

Along with some Perpetual Spinach they were used to make up a large amount of canneloni – some for now and some for later. Oops, I couldn’t wait to try some.

Caneloni

While I was out the front picking my tomatoes and cleaning up the very dead pumpkin vines I got chatting to my neighbours who told me that where they were digging they were going to plant a veggie garden as they were over supermarket veggies. Good for them!

The best thing I find about about pumpkin vines is when they finally die down you are liable to find a whole lot of pumpkins that you didn’t know you had, like these four Baby Blue Pumpkins.

Pumpkins

 

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In the big smoke

What better way to celebrate a significant birthday than visiting the big smoke to enjoy a meal with friends at one of the most highly regarded restuarants in the country, Tetsuya’s.

We were staying in China Town so we were right in the thick of that fantastic food culture. We had lunch at East Ocean, which I did not enjoy as much as my previous visit. Not only have they removed the yum cha trolleys (which left us somewhat confused as to how to place our order – we had no idea until we saw some other diners ordering) but I felt the food was not as good as I had experienced previously. Perhaps with only a photo menu it was just more difficult to decide what looked most tempting. Anyway there were some dishes we really enjoyed such as the Baby Snow Pea and Seafood dumplings and the Egg Tarts which, as always, were very yummy.

Thankfully balance was restored through a visit to the nearby Chinese Garden of Friendship. The garden was built to celebrate the Australian Bicentennary (1988) and it has matured into a lovely space. What is most intriguing about this garden is the way it plays with space. At about one hectare in size it isn’t huge. The views across the lake and the use of vertical height inside the garden remove you from immediate awareness of the surrounding busy city precinct and expand the sense of it being a much larger area.

Cityview

Once inside the gates you immediately notice the beautiful detail Chinese gardens are noted for, patterned pebble paving

Paving

and small ‘windows to capture the detail of individual plants.

Bambooview

From the highest point of the garden a waterfall feeds the lake. It flows from a small pool which flowering waterplants, which look remarkably like Lily of the valley, are growing.

Waterfall

As we wandered around, dodging the various wedding parties and their accompanying possees of photographers you could also see members of the Chinese nobility (oh well, people who’ve hired the costumes anyway).

Dressup

The local birds were clearly enjoying the garden and there were even some ibis that had nested and were raising their young within the precinct.

Ibis

After strolling around the garden we were ready to return and ‘frock-up’ for the big event.

Tetsuya’s is well known as one of the country’s finest restaurant and it certainly is just the ticket for a special meal. What is different is that the meal is in the degustation format, a series of small portions of exquisite food and, if you choose, a drink package to accompany the courses. The food went like this:

CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP WITH SHEEP YOGHURT ICE CREAM

PACIFIC OYSTERS WITH RICE VINEGAR & GINGER

SASHIMI OF YELLOW FIN TUNA WITH SHISHITO & GARLIC CHIPS

MARINATED NZ SCAMPI WITH CURD &JUNSAI

CONFIT PETUNA OCEAN TROUT WITH KONBU, CELERY &ApPLE

STEAMED MULLOWAY WITH BLACKBEAN & BACON

BRAISED OX TAIL WITH SEA CUCUMBER & LOTUS ROOT

ROASTED BREAST OF QUAIL WITH PINE MUSHROOMS & LARDO

DE-BONED RACK OF LAMB WITH EGGPLANT & WHITE MlSO

GOAT’S MILK ICE CREAM WITH SORREL GRANITA &TARTE TATIN

GENOA FIGS WITH LEATHERWOOD HONEY &FIG LEAF ICE CREAM

CHOCOLATE PAVE WITH CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM &CINNAMON TWIGS

CHAI MOCHI

and don’t forget the bespoke tiny – I’m talking about 8 cms in diameter – chocolate fondant birthday cake that completely finished us off.

As we were intent on enjoying our celebration I actually refrained from taking photos so if you would like to see something similar to what we ate you can visit  Eat,Drink,Write, (Bianca ate at Tetsuya’s about 10 days before we did).

I particularly liked the starter of chilled cucumber soup with sheep yoghurt icecream (think savoury, not sweet). The colour and flavour of the cucumber soup was intense and was highlighted by the tiniest cubes of diced apple and similar sized dices of jelly (no idea what it was made of). I couldn’t decide as to which two mains was my favourite, the braised ox tail with sea cucumber and lotus root or the roasted brest of quail with pine mushrooms and lardo. As you can see from the menu we ate or way through 12 courses – I’m afraid the Chai mochi, served with our coffee were a bridge too far so we took those home in a doggy bag instead!

As ever with a restaurant of such exacting standards the quality of the service forms an important component of the experience. The staff were attentive and knowledgeable, but what blew me away was the maitre d’ asking whether he was correct in recognising us from a previous visit, er yes … six years ago! (and I thought only the headmistress of my high school had that level of facial recognition skill!)

We were pleased that our hotel was within walking distance as we definitely needed some gentle exercise to settle everything back down before heading off to bed.

 

Moving right along!

With autumn moving swiftly to a close there is no time to be worrying about what has gone because what is happening now needs our attention. The winter crops we’ve been planting over the past few weeks are starting to make their appearance – purple-podded peas and broad beans are breaking through and the garlic that TB planted only last week has already leapt out of the ground.

Garlic_may

We are still seeing plenty of cabbage white butterflies and I’ve even sprung them laying eggs on our new seedlings. So be vigilant because even those 2 & 3 mm caterpillars can demolish your young plants. Keep on squishing your butterfly eggs and young caterpillars now and your brassicas will come through with new undamaged leaves over the next few weeks, as the butterflies are be killed by the frosts.

Over the past week we have started the arduous, but ultimately rewarding task of preparing this years crop of persimmons for drying. If you want to understand why you can check out our efforts last year on this front. We were far too successful in converting our friends, not to mention the owner of the tree, to the joys of dried persimmons so that we are processing a much larger amount of fruit this year.

Pers1

We’ve been working of our threading technique and have settled on using a needle to sew the thread through the stems to make hanging strings.

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Next will come the peeling and drying!

 

The last of the summer vegs

With the start of the frosts this week we sadly saluted the last of our summer veg with some Italian inspired dishes. The last ripe tomato picked from my sole, sort of surviving, plant in ground, and along with some ‘I’m not dead yet’ basil was used in a classic Pizza Margherita for our lunch – buffalo mozarella, tomato and basil (representing the colours of the Italian flag).

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Our friends who came over for dinner on the same day were offered an entree platter of the same ingredients along with some fried anchovy-stuffed and bread-crumbed green olives, all dressed with olive oil and some of Maggie Beer’s Seville Vinacotta.

Antipasti

What a way to go!

 

Seen and Herd

I thought that Gardening Australia was being rather coy when they showed Kate Herd’s garden last weekend. Her name seemed familiar and that was because it turns out I’ve just finished reading her book on Kitchen Garden’s of Australia. The show didn’t mention the book at all which I thought was strange as I bought it at the ABC shop.

Kate_herd

Kate has had what appears to be a truly wonderful time travelling around Australia having a darn good look into other people’s veggie gardens. Not only are there the well known – Jerry, Josh and Leonie’s gardens – but also plenty more from good home gardeners all around the country. The gardens range from what you are likely to see in your own back yard, to the wonderfully contemporary – the Marr Grounds’ garden ; to the historic – Vaucluse House. The Brock family garden in Alice Springs was one I particularly enjoyed reading about. I’ll just say go and grab a copy of the book for yourself.

Kate’s own garden appears to be open on a regular basis so if you are in Melbourne at the right time of the year you could check it out in person.

Limes

As an early birthday present I’ve received two lime trees, but not your Tahitian Lime. At long last I’ve been able to get Australian Native Limes. One is a Native Finger Lime (Citrus australasica ‘Rainforest Pearl’) and the second, a Finger Lime cross with a mandarian called Red Centre which has been developed by the CSIRO. The one thing they do have in common with other citrus are very long spikes! Now I just have to wait as the growing instructions say remove any fruit in year one and two of growth before you can start harvesting.

Limes

We are not taking any chances with the limes given the frosts that we can expect, according to the weather bureau, any day now. They have been tucked away in our ‘grove’ of Snow Gums and Kurrajong which will provide overhead protection for the plants. TB has also added several bales of hay around them to help with the insulation.

Limepots

I’ve also tucked in with them a pot of a native mint (Mentha australis) which I bought at the Bellevale Open Garden Fair. Its looking quite happy since its been moved there. This mint can be used just like your introduced culinary mints. Slowly my list of native bush tucker plants is growing! Our greatest success in this area is a Spear Lily (Doryanthes palmeri) which is a native of the Great Dividing Range up on the NSW/Qld border. Its very happy after several years of living in this spot.

The_grove

The Spear Lily is on the left (as you look at it) side of the picture and the mint is growing in the pre-loved olive oil tin. There are some strawberry runners I dug up from the new broad bean bed also over-wintering here.