And I’m back! well almost… I am currently knee-deep in final book editing and the design stage of the cookbook – this is the exciting part, where the past 2 years of writing and researching begins to take shape into the form of an actual book!
In between editing bouts and rain showers (it really is spring) I have managed to get into the garden to prep the glasshouse for the heat-loving seedlings. This will be our second season growing summer produce in our little heat capsule. Last year I went a little overboard with planting and ended up overcrowding and growing plants in the wrong position (i.e. shaded by larger plants). Ah well, you live and learn. This year I am being far more conservative sticking to 4 heirloom tomatoes (Isle of Capri being my favourite), cucumbers, chillies and basil – and maybe a melon or too. You can see how quickly things can become snugly in this 3x3m space.
Last year when we built the glasshouse we had to move part of the asparagus bed to make way for the foundations. I was concerned this might affect the asparagus production but it seems to be have bounced back just fine. Growing asparagus in the backyard is the ultimate commitment vegetable as it takes 3-4 years for the root system to establish before a single spear can be harvested. This year we are enjoying our second year of harvesting sweet asparagus only footsteps from the kitchen bench, and nothing can compare to the freshness.
As I snap off the fresh asparagus spears in the garden and then minutes later prepare them for dinner, I truly begin to understand that raw happiness I recall on my Poppa’s face as he stood at the kitchen step with a bucket of his homegrown tomatoes. It affirms to me that the trend of garden-to-plate is not a fad but a returning to the simpler things in life that brings us far more contentment than modern conveniences and screens ever will. If you can, get your hands into the dirt this spring, even a few pots on a balcony or windowsill can provide amazing freshness to meals. Although be aware, once you start it is rather addictive, and incredibly rewarding.
In the following recipe I pair homegrown asparagus with fresh mint and eggs from the backyard, and local artisan goat cheese, all encased in a simple oat and seed crust.
3/4 cup stoneground white flour (gluten-free: use buckwheat flour)
1/3 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
75g room temperature butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 free range egg
1 – 2 tablespoons yogurt OR sourdough starter*
large handful fresh mint, stalks removed
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 5cm lengths
100g goat feta, crumbled
5 free range eggs
1/2 cup cream
½ teaspoon salt
*the optional addition of sourdough starter will create a light crumb and improve the digestibility of the grains and seeds.
- Grease a deep 20cm quiche dish (or use a 25cm tart dish) with butter or olive oil.
- Place the flour, oats and seeds into a food processor and blend until roughly ground. Add the salt along with the butter/oil and pulse into a breadcrumb like texture. Add the egg plus 1 tablespoon yogurt/starter and pulse until the mixture forms pea-like balls. Press a little of the mixture between your fingers, if it holds together without crumbling it is ready to use, otherwise add an extra tablespoon of yogurt/starter and pulse again until the dough comes together.
- Tip the crumbly dough directly into the quiche/tart dish and quickly press to evenly coat the base and sides. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes for the pastry to rest (can be stored for up to 48 hours in the fridge).
- When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180C. Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes. Prepare the vegetables and make the custard by combining the eggs, cream and salt in a jug. Remove the crust from the oven and layer with mint leaves, asparagus and goat cheese. Pour over the custard and finish with a grind of cracked pepper. Bake for 30 minutes until the custard is just set. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Can be served warm, or cool completely for a picnic lunch.