carrots

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:

Starter:

  • 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

Dessert:

  • 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!

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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!

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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!