Cooking from the garden: a Christmas lunch for less than $10 per head

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Earlier this week I invited my team from work home for a Christmas lunch. As it is every year, cooking produce from the garden was the focus for the meal.

In total, I did a three course lunch as follows:


  • home-baked focaccia
  • home-made hummus dip
  • home-made baked beetroot dip

Main course:

  • slow roasted shoulder of pork
  • parsnip and green beans, pan-fried with honey
  • baked potatoes
  • carrots with vinegar and sesame seeds
  • beetroot salad with feta and walnuts
  • home-made apple chutney
  • tomato and tamarind chutney


  • eton mess, with home-baked meringue and mulberries

Other than what we already had in my pantry, these were the only items I had to buy:

  • 5kg of pork ($10/kg from my local meat wholesaler)
  • a 2kg bag of potatoes
  • a tub of greek yoghurt
  • two tubs of cream
  • a block of feta

That’s it! All up, it worked out to be less than $10/head, which I think is pretty good going 🙂

It definitely proves the value of growing what you eat, with the freshness of the ingredients a big extra benefit.

PS. sorry no photos — too busy cooking all day!

Interesting way to use summer veggies

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Bibimbap is a Korean dish that contains a range of summer vegetables and an egg on a bed of rice.

Our version of Bibimbap had Lebanese cucumber (softened in salt water), spinach (blanched and dressed with sesame oil and sesame seeds) and carrot (lightly fried in rice bran oil) all harvested from our garden less than an hour before dinner, along with a couple of eggs from the chook pen. Delicious!


Multi-coloured carrot cake

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Coloured carrots, all in a row

We say: why just stick to orange carrots!

One of the greatest things about growing heirloom crops are the surprises you get when you pull things out of the ground. This carrot is purple! This beetroot is yellow!

It certainly makes for an interesting sight when they’re piled on the counter 🙂

We had lots of multi-coloured carrots that we made into a multi-coloured carrot cake, using a regular carrot cake recipe from the Woman’s Weekly.

Yum! And see those little dots of bright colours throughout…

Our multi-coloured carrot cake
Our multi-coloured carrot cake

Carrots: $1.45 each, compared to $3.50 for a packet 500 seeds

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Our local Woolworths: carrots at $1.45 each!

We saw this sign in our local Woolworths over the weekend: carrots for $1.45 each.

My goodness! A packet of seeds costs about $3.50. At that rate, it would take only 3 supermarket carrots for the seed packet to be ahead.

There’s 500+ seeds in a typical packet of carrot seeds, and the seeds last 2-3 years.

It’s days like this that growing your own food makes perfect sense…

Autumn seedlings are in the ground

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Purple sprouting broccoli seedling

We’ve had more luck with our seed raising this year, and last week I transplanted a whole pile of seedlings out into the garden. The beds are looking pretty bare at the moment, but we have a huge crop ahead of us:

  • Carrots
  • Silverbeets
  • Turnips
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peas
  • Leeks
  • Beetroots
  • Spring onions
    • green
    • red
  • Kale
    • green
    • tuscan black
    • red russian
  • Broccoli
    • purple sprouting
    • di cicco
    • romanesco
    • chinese (broccolini)
  • Cabbages
    • mini
    • chinese
    • red
    • sugarloaf

That should keep us going for a while! This time around, I’ve avoided mass planting, and have instead mixed everything together (except the root vegetables). Hopefully I’ve got the spacing right, but only time will tell…

Bright red radishes

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Bright red French breakfast radishes

These French breakfast radishes are super cute! Baby-sized and bright red, these are ready for the picking. They are also one of Miss P’s favourites.

We’ve got plenty of other root crops in the ground at the moment, some fast-growing but most taking their time:

  • beetroots
  • heirloom radishes (various colours)
  • heirloom carrots (various colours)
  • daikon
  • onions (various)
  • turnips
  • spring onions
  • leeks
  • shallots
  • potatoes (going in soon)

Carrot jam

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A small jar of lovely carrot jam

After pulling out the pile of carrots recently, we’ve been working hard to get through them. This included a carrot cake (yum!), and an Indian carrot salad (thanks Jamie Oliver!). The highlight, though, has to be carrot jam.

Yes, carrot jam.

When my grandmother came by, she extolled the virtues of this jam, declaring it to be remarkably delicious. We were doubtful, but keen to get rid of some more carrots. So we traded some carrots for a few jars of home-made jam.

I must say, we were surprised. The jam is great. It looks and tastes like orange marmalade, and couldn’t be easier to make. These are the ingredients (in imperial measurements, due to the age of the recipe):

  • 4 carrots (grated)
  • 3 pounds sugar
  • 3 pints water
  • 2 lemons (finely sliced)

Cook for one hour, and then bottle. Voila!

When our next carrot glut comes along, I’ll definitely give this a try. Carrot jam, who would’ve thought!

Update: my grandmother read my post, and apparently I got a few details wrong 😉 Initially, the ingredients are soaked in the boiling water overnight. Then, when cooking, keep going until the jam is setting properly, which may take more than an hour. (Take out a sample, and let it cool to see if it is “jam-like”.) Who says blogs are just for younger folks!

Harvesting carrots

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The last harvest of carrots, quite a pile!
The last harvest of carrots, quite a pile!

The great thing about carrots is that you can leave them in the ground until you need them. Although as you can see from the photo above, they can become monsters!

But with spring planting underway, we just needed the space, so the carrots had to go! Out they come in one big harvest. A few strange looking ones, or ones that split, but the majority are glorious. (They were all planted in autumn, and were in the ground over winter.)

We’ll give some to the neighbours, cook up carrot cake, and store the rest in the fridge.

A very early Christmas

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A veritable cornucopia from the garden
A veritable cornucopia from the garden

On Monday I cooked Christmas lunch for my team from work, as is the tradition. (Yes Christmas! The price to pay for having two of the team going on maternity leave late this year.)

For the meal, the garden provided:

  • masses of silverbeet
  • carrots
  • spring onions
  • salad greens
  • herbs, including mint and dill

From this, and a a few store-bought ingredients, we had:

  • spanakopita (cheese and spinach pie)
  • roast chicken with baked potatoes
  • indian carrot salad
  • green salad

There’s still heaps of silverbeet left in the ground, and the spring crop is just coming into its own. It’s amazing how little has to be bought when the majority of ingredients can be pulled straight out of the ground an hour before the meal.


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Our first carrots out of the ground, very exciting!
Our first carrots out of the ground, very exciting!

Luckily I had a second pair of eyes looking through the garden today. The carrots have been growing for some time, but I’d thought that the relatively small amount of greenery above ground meant the carrots still needed time below ground.

How wrong I was. Scraping away the soil around the base of the leaves, the tops of carrots some 15-20mm across emerged. Very exciting!

We pulled the first one out, and it’s a midget, wide at the top but very short. The next few were a little larger. Then we pulled out a real, full-sized carrot. Plenty more where they came from…

Carrots were always in the “hard basket” for me, and seemed dauntingly difficult to grow. Lots of stories about needing the “right soil” and “perfect conditions” to get full-sized carrots. Now I’m not saying I’m now a prize-winning grower of carrots, but it has turned out to be pretty easy. I used seed tape to lay out two rows of carrots, and all that was needed was a little thinning out. And some patience.

Count me in for growing more carrots next season, once we work our way through this haul.