Squash and zucchini

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It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve last grown yellow squash. These little fellas transported me back to around 16 years ago when I lived in a gorgeous old farm house on a dairy farm in Northern NSW. I had a really good composting system set up for the household scraps and collected well composted cow poo from under the cattle grate to get the veggie patch started. The vegetables were pretty darn good from that patch. I remember having some very prolific yellow squash plants and the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t remember growing squash since then. Funny how food can trigger memories.

Squash and zucchini are pretty easy to grow and versatile. You can grate them and make zucchini slice, turn them into zoodles as a pasta substitute, cut thinly and bake into chips, add to sauces, soups or curries, and grate into cakes to make them more moist. While there are lots of different ways you can cook with them, my very favourite way to cook zucchini is to grill on the barbeque. Turns out squash is just as good on the barbie. Sounds simple but it is one of those recipes where I do a little happy dance because it tastes sooo good. This little dish tastes greater than the sum of it’s parts, and in this case the parts were pretty good already. I used a flavour packed lemon foraged from a neighbourhood tree, delicious local extra virgin olive oil pressed by my friends grandparents earlier this year and squash and zucchini picked earlier that morning from my garden. A little spoon of my homemade chimichurri on top to serve and I was in heaven. Instead of using salt you can also use porcini salt.

Recipe

Zucchini, cut in half lengthways

Squash, cut in 1 cm discs

Lemon, juice

Olive oil

salt

For the amount in photo above I used the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt. I then gave it a whisk in bowl and then tossed the cut squash and zucchini through to coat it well. Then I cooked it on the barbeque give or take about 5 mins on each side. You should get nice grill marks across the surface and its ready.

 

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Coriander

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My little coriander patch has reached maturity and now needs to be pulled up before the early summer heat hits. I’ve been eating a fair bit of it over the last few months but it will bolt to seed soon. I save the seed for growing my next batch of coriander as well to use the seeds as a spice in the kitchen. Before this bolts I’ll be making a batch of my dad’s infamous chimichurri.

Chimichurri recipe

Bunch of coriander
Bunch of parsley
Bunch of spring onions
Fresh chopped chillies (to taste)
1 head of garlic, half crushed, other half sliced finely
30 grams dried Italian herbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Extra virgin olive oil
Chop the coriander, parsley, spring onions and chilli finely with a really sharp kitchen knife. Mix together. Mix in the crushed and sliced garlic. Add just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the mix. Store in a tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.

Loquats

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Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica)  grow all across the Adelaide Plains. There is a giant old loquat tree around the corner from me on a vacant block that fruits profusely each year. The birds don’t seem too interested in the fruit and either do the passers by. Loquats are best eaten straight off the tree warmed by the sun. They have large seeds and not a great deal of flesh which I suspect turns people off collecting the fruit. The flesh of the fruit is pretty delicious with some describing it as a cross between a mango and a peach. I think it just tastes like a loquat and not like any other fruit. The flavour is more delicate with the skin peeled off.

I made a batch of jam and some loquat fruit leather with this lot. Other ways to preserve would be drying the halves like dried apricots or making a delicate loquat jelly. I also read that loquat leaves have medicinal properties and can be made into tea. While the loquats are supposed to be high in pectin, this time I used shop bought pectin to make sure the jam set. The loquats are quite sweet already and only need a ratio of 1 part loquat to 1/2 part sugar for the jam. Pick the fruit when yellow (orange seems overripe to me) and add in some underripe loquats to up the pectin levels if not using added pectin.

Loquat jam 

1.6 kgs of deseeded loquats

800 gms sugar

juice of one lemon

vanilla

pectin (optional)

Add all ingredients to a heavy based pot. Stir regularly, bring to a boil and then a rolling simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Blend with a stick blender if you want a smother texture. Put into sterilised jars and give a hot bath for 15 minutes.

Loquat leather

1.5 kgs of deseeded loquats

juice of one lemon

splash of water

Add all the ingredients to a heavy set pot, cook on medium heat for 5 mins to allow for some of the juices to release. Then get a stick blender to puree the fruit. Place mix on baking sheets on the dehydrator trays and spread evenly. Dry for 7 hours at 70C until dry to touch.

Leek and asparagus puffs

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If you’re lucky you’ve stumbled across a wild patch of asparagus down by a creek somewhere. I haven’t yet but am always on the look out as they are in season right now. This asparagus grows in my garden and a pretty low maintenance once it gets going.  Just add compost and water every now and then.

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It’s been a long time since I last grew leek. I’d forgotten about these ones, they were quite neglected and hidden by some overgrown rocket going to seed and some cabbages. To get the long white blanched stem you need to be a bit more proactive and either mound up the dirt around the stem, use some cut down pieces of old plumbing pipe or old 1L milk cartons to shade the stem.

Put these both together and you’ve got a tasty lunch or dinner. Don’t throw those leek tops out. They can be used in place of onions or roasted with a bit of salt and oil and added to other meals as a side. Or saved in the freezer to add to homemade stock.

2 puff pastry sheets

4 small leeks, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

olive oil

4 long strands of thyme, leaves

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1/3 cup cashew cheese

1/3 cup nut milk

salt and pepper

Put the oven to 210C. Add some oil to a medium heat pan, add the leek, garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the chopped asparagus and herbs to the mix and cook for a few more minutes. You want the leek fairly caramelised.

Thaw the pastry or make your own pastry. Cut each sheet into four smaller squares. Fold the edges over about 1 cm on the edges to form a little ridge. Get your nails and press into the middle part to minimise the rise. Bake in oven for 10 minutes until just starting to puff up.

While the pastry is cooking in the oven mix whisk together the egg, cashew cheese, milk, salt and pepper to taste.

Pull the pastry out of oven and top with the leek mix. Spoon over about 1.5 dessert spoons of the egg mix over the leek mix until the centre part of the pastry is covered with the egg mix. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Makes 8.

Serve with a nice fresh green garden salad.

 

Dandelion

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Every part of the dandelion is edible, with supposedly more nutrition in one plant that in a whole week’s worth of supermarket food. These pop up in lawns and disturbed ground so like any foraged greens make sure they haven’t been sprayed. The leaves can be cooked or eaten raw in things like pestos or salads. The flowers make a nice addition to salads and the petals picked off and sprinkled on top of food as a pretty garnish. The flowers can be reduced into a syrup and used as a sugar substitute, or made into wine and beer. Leaves dried and drank as tea. The roots can be roasted into a coffee substitute or shredded and added to homemade sauerkraut mix.

The roots are better in winter as the sugars are pushed down into the root when the frosts kick in. It can regrow from a small part of the broken off root so don’t worry about depleting the stock if you pull out the plant. The plant is particularly high in minerals and is good for the body and garden – e.g. add it to weed tea fertiliser. The Latin name is Taraxacum officianale meaning the ‘the official remedy for all disorders’. It’s been used medicinally by many cultures for thousands of years. All round it’s a good plant to add to the diet.

Wild greens pie

250 grams silverbeet

250 grams mixed wild greens – eg mallow, nettle, sour sob, fennel fronds, amaranth

1 red onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 eggs, whisked

180 gm block b.d. farm feta, crumbled

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 lemon, rind and juice

bunch of dill, finely chopped

6 sheets filo

oil for filo

Pre heat oven to 180C.

Cook greens in boiling water until wilted. Remove from water and squeeze out the water from the greens. Chop up them up and put into a large mixing bowl.

Cook onion and garlic over medium heat until soft. Then add it to the chopped greens.

Add eggs, feta, parmesan, bread crumbs, all spice, dill, lemon to bowl and mix well with hands.

Line a pie dish with filo, brush with oil, then add another sheet but cross it in the other direction, add the sheets in a cross pattern and oil the sheets as you add them. Add the greens mixture to the dish and fold over the filo pastry to enclose the mixture. Then brush top with oil. Stab the pastry a few times to allow for steam to escape while it’s cooking.

Cook for 40 mins or until pastry is well cooked through and is golden brown.

 

Allium triquetrum

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Allium triquetrum, also known as three cornered garlic or three cornered leek is coming through now. All parts of this plant are edible, its leaves, flowers and bulbs. It has a garlicy onion flavour and can be used anywhere you would use things like garlic chives or spring onions. No need to cook it, it can be eaten raw. Careful picking in public places as its a declared weed and will most likely be sprayed. In a few weeks it will be more obvious when its white flowers come through. This was growing along a creek.