Tag Archives: garden

The Very Hungry Caterpillars

Two monarch caterpillars munching on a swan plantI have written before about how much I like monarch butterflies. Their caterpillars are also very cool, huge with bright yellow/white/black stripes to let everyone know they mean business. This year I decided I should do more to attract monarchs to my property, so I purchased two large swan plant saplings but didn’t quite get around to planting them. Before I knew it the plants were colonised by caterpillars who proceeded to eat both down to the stems in a matter of weeks.

I know that the caterpillars are storing up energy for the wonder than is metamorphosis, but eating two whole plants seems a bit greedy.

Today I went out to find the last two caterpillars (I don’t know what happened to the others, nothing eats them so perhaps they just left looking for other food) rapidly consuming the last edible fragment of the last plant. Peak Swan Plant was long passed and the caterpillars had doomed themselves with their wasteful overuse of resources. I had to rush out to buy another three plants just to keep them alive. These are turning into very expensive pets.

In other garden news, these Arctotis flowers are very photogenic…
Bright yellow arctotis flower

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower, straight from the oven
I have been blessed (I think that is the word I want) with an abundance of cauliflower from my garden. Cauliflower is OK, but it is not the most exciting vegetable and it can be a chore to use it all up. Fortunately, I have discovered a new (to me at least) way of cooking it that is quick and tasty. This recipe works best with fresh, firm cauliflower.

Ingredients:
Cauliflower, half a head is enough for 2 side portions
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Strong cheese such as Tasty or Parmesan

Method:
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the cauliflower into rough florets. Slice the garlic thickly. Place the cauliflower into a oven safe dish and pour just enough oil over the top, but not too much. Toss the vegetables to coat with the oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper to taste.

Chuck it in the oven. After 15 minutes the edges of the cauliflower should be turning dark, gently toss the florets to turn them over.

Slice the cheese thinly – cut enough to roughly cover the cauliflower. At the 25 minute mark, take the dish out of the oven, toss again, then place the cheese slices over the cauliflower pieces. Put the dish back into the oven for a couple of minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.

Serve hot.

Monarch Butterfly – Danaus Plexippus

The weather this week has ranged from mediocre to terrible, but today is great. You could almost be forgiven for thinking spring is on the way.

Look who popped into my garden as I was hanging out the washing:

Monarch Butterfly feeding from a flowerenlarge…

I love monarchs, being inedible means that they don’t care about being garish and gives them an in-your-face attitude, like the 1980s distilled into butterfly form. This one looked a bit worse for wear after a hard winter, but still managed to look pretty boss.

Guava Jelly

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Lemons are out of season but my guava tree is laden with fruit and it is easier to pick it off the tree than to deal with the purple mess when the fruit drops to the ground. Hence, guava jelly:
A small jar of guava jellyIngredients:
Guavas, lots in various stages of ripeness.
Sugar, more than you think. No, even more than that.
Pectin, don’t worry I won’t tell
A Lemon
You will also need a jelly bag or similar device.

Method
Wash the guavas and remove any stems and leaves. Put the fruit in a large pot with a little water, cover and boil gently until the fruit is all soft and split – about 20 minutes or so. Add more water if required. Make sure all the fruit has opened, you can help things along by mushing it gently with a potato masher, but don’t get too vigourous.

Let the mixture cool then pour it carefully into the jelly bag sitting in a large bowl. It is possible to use a pillow case, or even a folded tea towel for this if you don’t have a jelly bag – they do the same job. The guavas will turn anything they touch purple but the colour washes out. I wouldn’t use my best pillow cases though.

Tie up the jelly bag and hang it over the bowl in an out-of-the-way place for 12 hours. Gravity will force the juice out, leaving the pulp behind. You will feel a strong urge to squeeze the bag – resist temptation! If you force the pulp trough the bag the jelly will become gritty.

Transfer the juice to a pot and bring to the boil. Let the juice boil down a little depending on how strong you want the jelly to taste. Jellies need both sugar and pectin to set properly. Technically the fruit contains enough pectin to set the jelly if you add enough sugar but this has never worked for me. Using store bought pectin ensures a good result and allows you to use less sugar. Even with the extra pectin you still need a lot of sugar – about 3 cups of sugar for every 4 cups of juice should do the trick, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Pectin also needs an acid to work, so add the juice from the lemon.

Boil the mixture vigourously for a few minutes then boil gently to let the juice reduce for 20-30 minutes. After a while you should see the mixture start to congeal around the edges, this is a sign that the jelly is nearly ready. Use a spoon to skim off the worst of any froth that appears on top of the mixture. Let it boil some more, then pour into pre-heated jars. Hopefully the jelly will set in the follow hours. If not, boil it up some more.

Serve with dark meat or strong cheese.

Homemade Pizza Recipe

Homemade pizza sitting on a chopping block

I often make pizza from scratch, it is a great way of using up various bits and pieces I have lying around. Over the years I have tried various recipes for the base, but this is my favorite (and also the easiest). I am particularly proud of this effort because a lot of the ingredients came from my garden.

Ingredients:

Base
1 Cup Flour
Goodly splash of olive oil
Cold Water
teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
Toppings
Whatever you can find in the fridge/garden, in this case:
Tomato paste
3 baby leeks chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
2 small Tomatoes, very thinly sliced
Red Pepper, sliced
Mozzarella Cheese, sliced
Basil Leaves
Salt/Pepper
Olive Oil

Method:
Put flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and pour in the oil (about 2-3 table spoons, maybe more). Pour in a little water and mix. If the flour is still dry, tip just a little more water in but go slowly – it is easy to make it too wet. You want a soft dough, not a cake mix. If you go too far put in some more flour.

Take the dough out and kneed it for a few minutes to complete the mixing, then wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes on the bench.

Put your heaviest (the heavier the better) cooking tray in the oven and heat to 220°C.

Take out the dough and kneed again then divide into 2 or 3 hunks. Roll out each hunk into a roughly circular shape a few millimeters thick. Put the bases on the hot cooking tray and add toppings.

Smear the top of the base with tomato paste, like you were spreading jam on toast. Next put the chopped garlic and leeks (normally I would use onion, but I just happened to have leeks). Slice the tomatoes as thinly as you can and add them along with the basil leaves. Finally slice the mozzarella and put that on top as well – it doesn’t have to cover everything.

Don’t try to heap too much on the pizza – it needs to cook quickly to get crispy.

Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle on a decent amount of olive oil. Put back in the hot oven and cook until it looks like a pizza. Serve with wine, salad, another pizza.