Try this at Home
Since my chapter “Pickled and Preserved” I have had many requests to share the recipes for Eggplant Kasundi and Holy Guacamole Salsa, so I thought that this week , as the projects don’t necessarily keep up with the blogs, that I would share those with you. Please bare in mind that these taste all that much better when the majority of the ingredients have been grown in the sun in a particular little corner of your own back yard. So if you enjoy these recipes I hope that it spurs you on to get your own hands dirty and plant at least two of the easiest vegies to grow; the humble cherry tomato and the exquisite eggplant.
Eggplant Kasundi – this recipe was adapted from an eggplant chutney recipe.
- ¼ cup pure olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced finely
- 2 jalapeños
- 3 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 thumb sized piece of ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon seeded mustard
- ¼ cup water
- 8 Lebanese eggplants, or 12 dwarf eggplants diced finely
- ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
- Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and cook onions, chili, garlic until softened. Add spice and cook stirring for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook until combined. Add sugar and vinegar and cook mixture until reduced and jam-like.
- Fold through diced eggplant, water and seeded mustard.
- Cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until eggplant skin has softened. Fold through coriander leaves, season to taste.
- Pour into sterilized preserving jars. Great served with cheese on a cheese board, on sandwiches, with egg dishes etc.
Holy Guacamole Salsa
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 25 min
Yields: Serves 6
- 6-8 large Roma tomatoes OR can whole tomatoes, drained OR better still two punnets of your own homegrown cherry tomatoes
- 2 small or 1 medium onion(s), diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 2-3 hot chilies, seeded and halved, we use our own homegrown jalapeños
- 1/2-1 cup (a handful) fresh coriander leaves, to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- ground pepper, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
- juice of one lemon or lime, optional
- If using fresh tomatoes, add ½ inch of water to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place cherry tomatoes in whole. They will break down during cooking at which time you can mash them with a potato masher or fork.
- While you dice the onions, simmer tomatoes until water evaporates and tomatoes start to soften. Peel and discard any skins if using large tomatoes.
- Toss tomatoes, hot peppers and coriander into a blender container. Blend until smooth.
- Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic in hot oil for about 10 seconds; just a flash in the pan.
- Add blended tomato mixture to the pan with the onions and garlic and give it a stir.
- Season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Add cumin if desired.
- Simmer on medium-low for about 15 minutes, or until salsa is reduced and thick. You may need to increase cook time if tomatoes are very juicy.
- You can add the juice of a fresh lime or lemon at this point, although it’s not necessary and will temper the salsa’s spiciness.
- Serve with tortilla chips, enchiladas, tacos, scrambled eggs, etc.
All in a Day’s Work
I am constantly amazed at how much can be accomplished in one day of solid work on our little patch.
How something can be transformed from a weed covered wasteland to a crop producing aesthetically pleasing place of peace. Inevitably though to devote an entire day to the garden means to ignore our son in the process. We just can’t seem to get him involved in any of our projects and in all reality I remember being just the same when I was a teenager. Can I remember planting vegies in the garden or weeding a patch of lawn…NO fear! So I guess I cant really blame him, I just wish that it would be something we could do together. So now we are getting a little smarter, organizing lessons on a Saturday or workshops for him to attend, or phoning a friend to come and hang out in the yard for the day to help get him outside at least and pries him away from his laptop and the internet.
Just recently I wanted to tackle the “garden bed” on the left hand side of our driveway because frankly as a first impression it was leaving a lot to be desired. As Benny was on a motorbike ride with his mates from church, I called up one of Lawson’s friends to come and hang out with him and viola I had several hours to myself. We had weeks previously bought six bags of sugar cane mulch from the local Bunnings and they were stacked neatly in the shed waiting for the opportunity and time to arise. This particular garden I had neglected for quite some time and so now it was full of weeds (I wish I had taken a before photo), and so I set about pulling most of them out physically which took the best part of the first back breaking hour. Now from previous experience I knew that if I meticulously laid wads of our accumulated local newspapers and covered them with a healthy layer of fresh mulch, then before I could turn around the chickens would be in and scratching it all up again. So I had to become a fence builder before I could go any further with the project.
In another little garden bed near the tennis court I had recently planted jalapeños and bell chilli peppers and had kind of taken a punt that I didn’t really need a high fence to dissuade the chickens from getting in there and digging up new plants before they got the chance to get established. I bought some half metre garden stakes, hammered them in the ground at intervals and cut the snake and vermon mesh to about the same height. This I ran along between the stakes and secured with zip clips which I later trimmed off to make them virtually invisible. This provided me with a low fence that protects the new plants but will allow harvesting to be easy once the bushes have gained some height, at which point the fence could be reused and relocated to an area of new planting. Tricky hey!
So using my newly acquired expertise I used the same technique and created a long low fence on top of the brick garden edging (one day that will go) that would provide a barrier to the chickens and prevent the layers of mulch washing away in the event of heavy rain. Then I turned on the sprinkler system and wet the ground for a while. Another technique I have learnt which stops newspaper flying away with every gust of wind before you have the chance to put the mulch on to hold it down is to turn on the sprinkle system as you are laying the paper. Not something I advise in the height of winter but very successful on a scorching summers day when you are wringing wet from sweating your guts out building a fence! The black poly pipe and its little jets created a fine mist of water which was just enough to soak both myself and the paper and wet the ground sufficiently underneath it. Once a metre or so of paper was laid I would turn off the sprinkler and lay the mulch, then on again with the sprinkler and paper and then off again for more mulch. This is when I really could of used a hand because each run to the tap which was not located close at hand, involved hopping over the fence and back again, way too many times. But the boys were playing and I wasn’t going to interrupt them just to stand there and be my tap turners so I got more exercise than I bargained for and persisted. Until I ran out of newspapers. Do you know how many papers I went through and it only covered half the area I needed it to, and of course it was too late to stop the project now mid way through. So I had another brainy idea, I took all the discarded plastic bags the mulch came in, cut the welds, flattened them out and lay them on the ground like a weed mat. They covered a lot of ground and were much easier to handle than the paper and seemed to be just as effective. So six bags later the garden was covered and the project complete. In this particular garden I have a hibiscus to attract the bees and for some colour, a Tahitian Lime, Avocado, Olive, some stray Bird of Paradise that I think run under the fence from the neighboring property and my Lemon Chicken Tree which will be the subject of my next chapter so I wont spoil that with an explanation just now.
Weeks, nay months later and the garden still looks fresh and weed free. There has been sufficient rain which is hopefully retained in the soil much longer now for the mulching and lots of beautiful sunshine to boot. Just this weekend I noticed some new growth on the lime and what looks like some buds on the lemon so fingers crossed my hard work has paid off.
The best thing was later that afternoon while I was cleaning up, Lawson and his mate came out to the yard to skateboard on the tennis court and his mate looked at the garden with a big dopey grin and amazement on his face and exclaimed “Did you do all of that in just one day?”. Amazing what you can achieve in one day, isn’t it.
One of the toughest things about managing the two acres that we have is our constant battle with the weeds. The advantage of living in this tropical state with its bounty of warm sunshine and plentiful rain means we have healthy vegies and lush grass which is almost always overshadowed by an amazing crop of the tallest weed trees you have ever seen. I grew up in Victoria where for the most part plants were small and dainty like the little alyssums that grew between the pavers at Aunty Maizie’s house and the pretty pink blush of the delicate cherry blossom flowers at Nanna’s. Even the weeds as I remember them were small and fragile and could be teased out of the ground by Mum and Dad with a little hand tool. Now my memory of this process may be a little hazy as I wasn’t much into gardening in those days and it did seem like an awful waste of time when there were Barbies to be dressed and ballet to be practiced but I feel that the Victorian weeds were a great deal weaker than the ones that grow up here.
Now just as you may never have heard of cherry tomato trees, you may never have come across in your suburban backyard the anomaly known colloquially as the Spiky Apple Tree. These are the mother of all weeds! They start out as a pair of small fleshy leaves on a thicker than usual stalk which seems at first very easy to grab and also lifts out of the soil in full without breaking, bonus! If you are smart and lucky enough to grab them early, always with gloves on to protect what’s left of your manicure, you will inevitably still feel the sharp jab of the immature version of the spikes that grow hidden just under the leaf or just below the cover of the dirt. That just hints to the power of the prongs it develops if the plant is allowed to mature. These plants grow fast, really fast, and because of their method of propagation they grow en mass. See, its not only a coincidence that I talk about them and reference the cherry tomato trees as the spiky apple produces hundreds of green berries the size of marbles that if squashed resemble an underripe cherry tomato full to the brim with seeds that represent potentially another grove of spiky apple forrest. Once mature these trees develop trunks, which will keep growing until about six meters tall and the trunks fifteen centimeters or more in diameter. They are covered in the biggest (and small sneaky ones) thorns at every point on the trunk. At this point if you have been crazy enough to allow other projects to get in the way of weed control you will need to chainsaw them through the trunk, drill holes in the stump and inject with a syringe any type of scary poison that will finally stop them dead in their tracks (that is apart from the potential babies growing at the foot of the tree). Then you must chop it up and cart it away which will leave you scratched and scarred and bleeding. You have probably read enough so far as to rightly assume we have let this pest get away from us, but let me assure you that it was not all our fault.
Talking with neighbours always gives you a great insight into the past of the property you now own and as our lovely neighbour Ross has been in his house on one side of ours for about thirty odd years and has had at sometimes a closer relationship with some of the previous owners than others, he is a wealth of information about our home and its previous occupants. He told us the story of the “mad irishman” who would wander down to the secret garden every morning and play his bag pipes in his pajamas! Then there was the drug lord down the road who came home one day in a Rolls Royce he had won at the Casino. He told us how with the second owner of our house, he helped cement the boulders together to build the tranquil, cascading, water feature at one end of our swimming pool, how the excavation works of the same owner ruined the tranquil creek and its turtle habitat and how he and that same owner put up the fence dividing both their properties not long after that. Ross also warned that very same owner about the spiky apple, but this horticultural brains trust thought that they were the best, fastest growing trees he had ever seen and just let them run rampant! The seeds then flowed off down the creek to propagate many more spiky apple forests and so on and so on… So we have been and will continue to be fighting a loosing battle with this particular weed it seems.
There are all sorts of other weeds to contend with also on the property, like the one that grows like a vine that overtakes full trees and ties them up in knots with rope that could support Tarzan, and the one that pretends to be a ground cover plant by producing pretty yellow flowers that attract the native bees but lays down roots every five centimetres which makes it near impossible to pull up and remove entirely. One that I fight the good fight with every week in my vegie garden we probably all have in common. You may know it by either of these names; cobbler’s pegs or mother of millions, or perhaps your family had a special pet name for it all of their own. All we know is that the weeds have been here long before us and previous owners and will no doubt continue to be here long after we are gone. Whatever the case in our feeble attempt to control them they are in fact controlling us, eating into our precious time that could be spent enjoying the place or doing other projects and eating into our finances with purchase of chemicals, sprayers, chains etc. I cant see at this point a real solution to our weed problem but…hey just an idea but don’t goats eat everything in sight? I think maybe we should get a goat!