Category Archives: garden

Recipe: End of Summer Harvest Polenta

My garden is almost ready to bed down for the winter.  The zucchini, pumpkin and melon vines have shrivelled to nothing, the rocket has bolted, and this evening I went out to pull up my basil plants, pick the last of my tomatoes, and harvest a final handful of tiny capsicums, and five corn cobs ranging in size from medium-small to positively miniature.

Last harvest of the summer

Last harvest of the summer

If I have time in between my intensive Easter singing schedule (new personal best this year, with five services over four days, not counting Palm Sunday services and the Saint Matthew’s Passion I’m singing in on April 5-6), it will soon be time to weed and dig and compost and maybe put in some winter vegetables that will give nutrients back to the ground.

But in the meantime, it’s time to celebrate the dying summer with this beautiful feast from my garden! 


This polenta has it all – it’s soft and creamy, with a little crunch from the fresh corn and plenty of smokey heat from the chipotle pepper (it’s smokey outside, too, which is probably why chipotle pepper seemed so irresistible to me).  To accompany it, I’ve slow-roasted my tomato harvest, turned my basil and parsley into a creamy purée with cannelini beans, olive oil and lemon juice, and sautéed up a lot of capsicums and onions to add some crunch.


Also, a quick announcement before I give you the recipe itself – as you may have gathered, I will be singing the Saint Matthew Passion with the Melbourne Bach Choir at the start of April.  It’s going to be a rather gorgeous – and enormous! – performance, with three large choirs (I’m in Choir 2, which spends a lot of time interjecting with questions and interrupting arias with gratuitous chorales and choruses), an orchestra, and six soloists.  If you like serious Baroque Oratorio, I recommend it (and you can buy tickets here). 

Anyway, the unfortunate side-effect of all this glorious music is that I will be out at rehearsals every night next week until quite late… which means I am unlikely to be cooking *or* blogging much over the next ten days or so.  I shall try to pop in to say hello, but if I don’t, you know why…

Your Shopping List

For the tomatoes
600 g tomatoes, preferably randomly sized and coloured and from your garden!
olive oil
salt, pepper

For the polenta

1 cup polenta
4 cups water
salt, pepper
1 chipotle chilli in adobo
150 g fresh corn kernels
25 g butter
1/3 cup cheese
For the puree
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
400g tinned cannelini beans, drained
50 g pistachios
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper
For the rest
olive oil
2 onions
6 long sweet peppers, multicoloured


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Slow Food Market, with the season turning

Melbourne is in fine form today.  As we left for the market, it was drizzling, but by the time we were halfway there, the sun was shining so brightly that Andrew was making plaintive remarks about sunglasses.  But it started raining again not long after we reached the market… which might explain why it was a little less crowded than usual and there was NO QUEUE FOR THE TIVOLI ROAD BAKERY STALL.

Seriously, you have no idea how rare this is.  In fact, I’ve never been to the Tivoli Road Bakery stall at that market, because the queues are usually so long that I haven’t even bothered looking to see which stall it was – I am fickle, and I’m really not at the market to stand in queues, especially with so much glorious produce on display elsewhere…

Having realised that this was, indeed, a queueless Tivoli Road Bakery stall, we interrupted our first circuit of the market to get right in there and grab some salted caramel donuts and jam donuts.  Because Tivoli Road Bakery donuts are not to be ignored.


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Garden Update and Flemington Farmers’ Market

I realise that I’m not posting many recipes here at present.  Quite frankly, the weather just isn’t conducive to culinary experimentation – it seems to be endlessly, wearyingly hot, in a manner that saps energy and creativity alike.  Right now, I’m feeling grateful for my cookbooks, which allow me to continue making moderately healthy meals without doing too much thinking.

But – almost miraculously – my garden is still alive.  In fact, it’s even producing tomatoes at last, as well as zucchini of supermarket-worthy size (though, pleasingly, of farmers-market-worthy shape and colour).

gardentomatoBehold, yesterday’s harvest!

Harvest time!  Tomatoes of many colours, zucchini, green and purple basil, and parsley!

Harvest time! Yellow, red and stripey tomatoes, yellow crookneck zucchini, green and purple basil, and parsley!

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Brief garden gloat, because…

I have ripe tomatoes!  At last!


I’ve been watching literally dozens of tomatoes hang greenly on the vine for at least two weeks now, refusing to ripen, but I nearly missed these two because they were so well hidden in the very centre of the foliage.  This is probably why they are so perfectly red and round and unmarked – usually the birds or the caterpillars spot them before I do.


Another stealth tomato waits to ripen… I think this one is a tigerella, but I have no idea what it’s ultimate colour will be…

The rest of my garden is growing enthusiastically.  My beans are looking a little sad, but they are producing beans in dribs and drabs, and the corn is looking alarmingly like the sort of thing that takes over your garden and is unkillable.  Given that I planted the corn almost entirely in support of my beans (Andrew doesn’t even like corn), I’m a bit concerned by this.  But a part of me can’t help being excited nonetheless at the presence of an entirely new vegetable in my garden!


My asparagus and leeks are looking healthy, and my salad greens and basil aren’t dead yet, which is more than you can say for most of my pot plants.

(And no, there is no illustration for that statement.  Did you want a photo of shrivelling-up pot plants?  No, I didn’t think so, either.)

My allegedly compact delicata pumpkin is sprawling all over the place and threatening the raspberries.  Compact, my foot.


At the other end of the garden bed, my rockmelon is slowly building up steam – I suspect a big push starting sometime next week.  At which point the raspberries will be in serious trouble…


And back in the tomato bed, I have yellow zucchini ripening, along with a surprisingly large number of long sweet chillis.  My other capsicum plant isn’t doing so well, but my parsley is producing nicely.


A proper foodie post or two will follow soon, but the last few days have been a bit hellacious, both in work and out of it, which is not conducive to writing.  We’re all fine, but living in interesting times.  I hope your week is more pleasant than mine – and that your garden is growing!

Oh and one more thing… we’re coming up to the last week of my raw food challenge, so if you wanted to play and haven’t done so yet, now is your moment!  I’ve been getting some lovely recipes through this challenge, so even if you don’t plan to contribute, I recommend giving it a look.


Not many recipes around here recently, because I’ve been enjoying the last week of my holidays fairly quietly, meeting up with people, trying to get into a habit of daily yoga and language practice (in the very faint hope that such a habit will survive Grants Season at work), and mostly cooking from cookbooks.  I do have a couple of longish posts pending, but recipes have I none.  I will also be overhauling my Low Fructose page in the next week or two, following an incredibly useful conversation with a dietician about fructose, FODMAPs, and how these interact with cooking.

Next week is going to be hideously hot all over Melbourne, so now might be a good time to investigate (and even join in!) the Raw / No Cook Vegetarian Challenge I’m running this month.

But in the meantime, here, have a photo of my most recent vegetable harvest.  If you look closely, you will see a tiny, tiny asparagus.  Almost too small to really count, but maybe next year?


I hope those who are still on holidays are having a good one, and that we all survive the heat next week.


One year ago: Bushfires

Two years ago: Recipe: Old English Matrimonials

Gardens, Salads and Swans

This isn’t much of a post, but I did want to celebrate my first harvest of the season!  (I’m not counting the single purple bean I harvested a week ago).

The tally so far is one yellow zucchini (with about six friends coming along behind it, leading me to hope that this, finally, will be the year when I get overrun by zucchini – I have so many ideas for using up zucchini, and my garden never delivers), assorted salad greens (many of which are growing outside the raised beds, thanks to the diligent digging work of certain felines), basil, parsley, and the Littlest Capsicum Of All.


This calls for a salad, don’t you think?


And, just for something completely different, some photos of black swans and waterbirds below the cut.

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Garden update!

I’m still in the post-Christmas slump phase of my holidays, which is generally characterised by sleeping a lot, reading a lot, feeling guilty about all the sleeping and reading, and indulging guilt-fueled frenzies of activity.

It also involves going to the Boxing Day Test with my brother, though he might not invite me in future – last year, I turned up and the Sri Lankan batting order promptly collapsed; this year, I arrived and the British tail end collapsed followed by the Australian batting order also collapsing, and then he called me the next day after lunch to see if I could come in and jinx the British… the first wicket fell as I entered the MCG and they were all out by tea.

He wouldn’t let me attend yesterday, which I thought was a little unfair, really.  After all, the Brits got one full day free of my baleful influence – why should the Aussies be any more fortunate?

The really sad part about all this is that I really like to watch good batting, but evidently I don’t get to see it in person (the effect seems to work only when I am present – no amount of glaring at the TV has an impact).

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Farmers’ Market with Fruit and Gardening and No, Still No Chocolate Caramels

First, allow me to apologise to those of you who read my Facebook and have been waiting patiently for the chocolate and cranberry caramels I was bragging about a few days ago.  It turns out that pride really does come before a fall; my first batch was delicious but failed to set (converting dairy confectionery recipes to non-dairy ones requires a bit of guesswork to get the temperatures right.  On this occasion, I guessed wrongly), and when I was halfway through making my second batch (today), my digital candy thermometer suddenly started showing rows of 8s, and by the time I’d realised that this wasn’t just me staring at it from the wrong angle and that it really wasn’t going to reset, the whole batch had gone too high at some point, the cocoa butter had separated out, and it was a total disaster.

My digital candy thermometer, incidentally, is now working perfectly.  Perhaps it just doesn’t like hot temperatures?  Though if this is the case, I believe it need to reconsider its career choices.

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My Weekend: World Vegan Day and Pots of Herbs

My aims for this weekend were twofold: to attend World Vegan Day, and to finally tidy up our rather disgraceful back porch (I’d do a before and after post, but I am far too ashamed of the before state to provide photographic evidence).

Well, I did have one or two other aims, mostly involving singing practice and sleeping a lot, but those are pretty much my main goals every weekend so they don’t count.  I achieved them, by the way.

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Garden post of extreme excitement

Look at this!

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