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).
Every year, I play Garden Roulette: will this be a hot summer or a cold one? Do I plant my tomatoes in full sun by the eastern fence, which becomes the Kitchen of Vegetable Death in 40°C degree weather, and risk them cooking on the vine, or do I plant them in semi-shade at the centre of the garden, and then watch everything sit silently and consider mildew when the weather never gets above 30°C for more than ten minutes at a time.
This year – for about the first time since I started gardening – I actually called it correctly, and I am being rewarded with the best tomatoes I’ve ever grown, and actual capsicums.
Over in the second garden bed, the corn is getting quite big, and one or two of the bean plants are actually taking off. I have some good basil and some hyperactive rocket. The most exciting news for me is that my asparagus plants are now putting up fatter shoots – not quite harvest-sized, but I really do think that next spring might be the spring where I pick my own asparagus…
Of course, this is still my garden, which means that on the porch, at least one plant has succumbed to death by cat – the entire plant disappeared literally overnight, and was found several metres away in the garden. And many of my other little pots are on the verge of expiring from the heat.
Another thing that seems to happen only in my garden is weird hybrids. This year, the delicata squash is producing a fruit that doesn’t look at all like a pumpkin or a squash. I suspect that my squash plant has been having it off under cover of darkness with the rockmelon vine at the other end of the garden bed. No wonder the raspberry plant is looking so seedy, having to witness such shocking events…
Since my garden is clearly not yet at a level that will keep us fed, and since I am feeling a lot of solidarity with anyone who has to farm in this weather, we made a brief – hot! – trip to Flemington Farmers’ market this morning, to stock up on goodies for the next week, and catch up with our favourite farmers.
I’ve been missing John and Alissia from Wild Dog Produce, because we tend to go to Coburg Farmers’ Market, and they pretty much stick to Flemington at the moment, so it was lovely to get a chance to catch up with Alissia and hear how they were doing. It turns out she grew up not far from Andrew, so moving out to the country was a bit of a shock, especially the snakes. And the extra heat. For all I complain about Melbourne’s current tendency to pretend it is Adelaide (and seriously, Melbourne, do you even want to go there?), we did at least get a reasonably cool night last night. The northern parts of Victoria, not so much.
This is not weather for happy strawberries, so we made do with teeny tiny potatoes, lovely round beans, and their superlative garlic, before moving on.
It is an unfailing truth that if Andrew is at a market where Pure Pies are, he must buy a pie. Andrew and I can’t agree on their pastry. He loves it, because it is rich and flakey and buttery. And it really is all of those things, but after the first bite I start feeling overwhelmed by the richness. It’s very sad, because I do like good pies, and these are good pies, if that’s the sort of pastry you like. (And this truly is a matter of personal taste – I have perpetrated pastry of a similar kind myself, and the ingredients were gorgeous and the pastry was beautiful, and it still made me feel queasy, though it made Andrew very happy indeed. Sigh.)
I meanwhile, went in search of orange blossom honey for our friend Ali. We still definitely and absolutely do not need more honey for ourselves, though by diligent persistence in the making of Linzer biscuits and scones whenever the occasion permits, we are getting through our jam supplies nicely…
The Wagyu Beef stall was selling many beautiful things, but in this weather there is really not much point in anything other than sausages. They had both the kind you grill and a capricciosa variety, so we left well-supplied.
Next to the beef stall was one selling peaches. I’m still dreaming of that beautiful roast peach and tomato side dish from last week, and I am positive it will go beautifully with sausages, so that was an obvious choice. They were also selling rather beautiful, plump dried apricots. Yes please…
My tomatoes and zucchini are not yet taking over, alas, so I couldn’t resist buying a big bag of little cherry tomatoes for slow-roasting and some more zucchini for making zucchini noodles (which I have been told are properly titled zoodles! This makes them even cooler than they were already!). And the sweet baby silverbeet was equally irresistible.
Another stall was selling nut butters of varying kinds. I found a lovely recipe a few weeks ago for a salad of green beans, almonds and red rice with an almond butter vinaigrette. I still had red rice, and I’d just bought beans, so that was an easy choice. And the pistachio butter was far too interesting to resist. I think I’m going to try to make a broccoli and pistachio butter pesto tomorrow night, to go with my zoodles.
This, of course, necessitated broccoli, but I’d already seen broccoli at a previous stall, so that was easy. I also bought some red onions, little green capsicums, and also celery, a vegetable that does nothing for me in general, but which was necessary for the strawberry gazpacho I was planning for after choir (which, incidentally, was *amazing*. If you haven’t yet bought the Green Kitchen Cookbook, I recommend you go out and buy it at once, if only for this recipe. It’s my new favourite food, especially in this weather.)
By this time we were hot, thirsty, and entirely ready to get back to our nice cool house with its new ceiling fans (see what I did there? They were installed on Wednesday, and I’m pretty excited about them, though it took the cats a while to be convinced that they weren’t some sort of dreadful pterodactyl on the hunt for small black and white saber-toothed tigers). So we finished our expedition with a quick stop for fresh orange juice.
And home at last. I hope you are keeping cool if you are a fellow denizen of the southern hemisphere, or warm if you are in the north.
Brief Menu for this week, in case anyone cares…
Monday – Quinoa milk and fruit smoothie for breakfast, green bean and almond salad for lunch, zoodles with broccoli pesto for dinner – ooh, look, accidentally gluten-free and vegan day!
Tuesday – Breakfast and lunch as for Monday, dinner will be sausages with roasted peaches and tomatoes, roast potatoes and carrots, and green tahini, rhubarb crumble
Wednesday – Rhubarb Crumble and yoghurt for breakfast, either tuna salad for lunch or make it a pub lunch day, sandwich of grilled eggplant, slow roasted tomato, grilled zucchini, roast garlic, silverbeet, and cheese for dinner.
Thursday – Crumble or smoothie for breakfast, roast and grilled vegetable salad with chickpeas for lunch (using leftovers from Tuesday and Wednesday), carbonara for dinner
Friday – goodness only knows, but it will be sausages and bread for dinner, because after a long week with all that heat, I will be a very tired and sad Catherine. However, I am reading a cookbook which may inspire lunches on Wednesday and Friday…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~One year ago: Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food: A Lunchbox Challenge Two years ago: Cooking for People Who Don’t Cook – a festival of links and recipes