Garden, Gardens, Green Living, sustainability

Local edible gardens



Susan Greig

Susan holds a variety of cooking classes once a month in Bryanston, Johannesburg, with a focus on seasonal, fresh, quick and easy food that stems from her love of alfresco dining and entertaining. susangreig.co.za How did you start your edible garden? My husband, Christopher, has the greenest fingers I know, so I am very lucky that he does all the planting and planning. He always does a lot of research by gleaning info from famous garden books and garden designers. Because he is a designer, his attention to detail, form and proportion are always excellent. We are also a vegetarian household, so a garden of on- tap vegetables is very appealing. What was the first thing you ever grew? Herbs: there is nothing better than using fresh herbs in cooking and I grew so tired of buying large packets of them, only using a few sprigs and binning the balance. What is wonderful is that you can have them in little pots on your windowsill or outside your kitchen door, and they are always available. It’s also possible to grow a few varieties in one pot. What would you recommend as a starting point for growing your own fruit and vegetables? The advice I can give is not to plant too much of one thing. Veggies grow very fast and you will land up with one hundred heads of lettuce! You can now buy reels of seeds. That’s a good idea – you want variety and a manageable amount of plants to consume. What do you love most about your garden? The best part is watching nature take its annual course, and the delights of each season. I can relax in a garden surrounded by beauty. I am very lucky that my husband has created a real urban oasis for us to come back to after a hectic day.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE PHYLLO PIE

• knob of butter • 2 small leeks, sliced finely • 400g baby spinach, chopped • 250g ricotta cheese • 4 jumbo eggs, beaten • 140g grated Parmesan • a large pinch of nutmeg • salt and pepper to taste • artichoke hearts (1×400g tin), drained and halved • 85g sundried tomatoes • 50g butter, melted • 270g phyllo pastry • 80g pinenuts, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Heat the knob of butter in a frying pan, and lightly sauté the leeks to soften them. Steam the baby spinach in batches in a deep saucepan, and place in a colander to drain and cool. Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess liquid. Place in a food processor and chop. In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta and eggs with the Parmesan and beat. Add the sautéed leeks, chopped spinach, nutmeg and plenty of seasoning. Stir in the artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. Grease a 23cm tin with a removable base or a ceramic dish with a little butter. Lay the phyllo pastry out on a clean, flat surface and brush liberally with the melted butter. Lay another sheet of phyllo on top with the points diagonally adjacent to the bottom layer, forming a rough star shape. Continue to layer sheets of pastry in the same way until there are six layers in all. Lay the sheets in the baking dish so that the corners point over the edge. Pour the spinach filling into the tin and crumple the edges of the pastry slightly, to create a ruffled effect. Bake for 1 hour until golden and firm. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the toasted pinenuts. Serves 8

Nikki Werner

Nikki is a well-regarded, Cape Town- based food writer and food stylist, and she often makes lemon marmalade, zwetschgenkuchen (plum cake) and tomato sauce for pasta from her garden. heimatgefuhl.com How did you start your garden? A kitchen-garden landscaper set up the foundation, plotting the beds, providing a good base by laying down manure and straw, starting a compost heap and setting up a worm farm. What was the first thing you grew? In this garden, courgettes. My partner Brandon and I just scattered the seeds and waited to see what would happen. The plants were so prolific it resembled something out of Little Shop of Horrors! What would you suggest as a starting point? Observe the area you’re going to sow, see how the sun moves throughout the day and plant accordingly. Have a long-term plan and incorporate pathways that allow you to access the plants when harvesting. Best thing about your garden? It’s about falling in with nature’s rhythm: when a plum is perfectly ripe, there’s no putting it off. It determines what happens in my kitchen, and I can grow ingredients that aren’t always readily available, or those best eaten as fresh as possible.

HELENE’S KAFFEE-UND-KUCHEN CHEESECAKE

This is a cake my German relative, Helene, bakes when her family gathers for kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake) on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve adopted the recipe and love that the fruit filling changes according to the seasons – apples in autumn, rhubarb in spring and cherries in summer.

• 250–300g rhubarb stems, cut into 2cm pieces • a small handful of strawberries • 250g caster sugar • zest of 2 oranges • 100g butter, softened • 100g sugar • 1 egg • 200g f lour • 1t baking powder • 3T ground almonds or hazelnuts • 500g creamed cottage cheese • 3 eggs, separated • 150g sugar • 1t vanilla extract • icing sugar and whipped cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the rhubarb in a baking dish with the strawberries, caster sugar and orange zest. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes – the rhubarb should be soft but still holding its shape and the sugar should have turned to a pink syrup. Drain the syrup and reserve for another use. Leave the rhubarb to cool slightly. Lightly grease the sides of a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper. For the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together and beat in the egg. Mix the baking powder into the flour and add to the butter mixture. Bring together to form a soft dough. Tip the dough into the tin and press it outwards and up the sides to form the crust. Sprinkle the ground nuts over the base and spoon the fruit over. For the filling, mix the creamed cottage cheese, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Mix a spoonful of the egg whites into the topping mixture to loosen, then fold through the mixture. Spoon the topping over the rhubarb and bake for 50 minutes. (Check the cake after 10 to 15 minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil.) Allow to cool, release from the tin and dust with icing sugar. Serve with whipped cream.

Note: If using apples instead of rhubarb, peel and cut into smallish pieces; or if using cherries, simply pit them – there’s no need to pre-cook them.

Jane Griffiths

Joburg-based author of Jane’s Delicious Garden and Jane’s Delicious Kitchen, Jane describes herself as a ‘spiritual gardener’. Her new book, Jane’s Delicious Herbs is launching towards the end of the year. janesdeliciousgarden.com How did you start your garden? I visited a friend in California whose garden was bursting with chillies. I was so inspired that back home I removed some lawn, dug in compost, scattered seeds and sat back to watch my chillies grow. Every year I tried something new. I made many mistakes but developed a method of growing vegetables that suits my busy lifestyle, maximising both time and space. What would you suggest as a starting point? Start with a small bed, easy vegetables and a selection of herbs. If you have a small garden or a veranda, use containers. Why will growing your own be a trend in the future? People are becoming aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and what they’re feeding their children. It’s also part of a global shift to get back to our roots – literally! Best part of growing your own? It’s extremely gratifying feeding family and friends with wholesome, organic food from my garden.

ASIAN CRUNCHY COLESLAW

Once you have tasted this salad with its fresh, herby flavour, you will find it difficult to go back to coleslaw made with mayonnaise – it’s all about texture and taste. Mix it with the noodles and vegetables just before serving as the vermicelli will absorb the dressing and if you leave it for any length of time, it will go soggy.

• 2T grated palm sugar • 2T light soy sauce • 2T sesame oil • juice of half a lime • 2T rice vinegar • 1t Japanese chilli • 3 cups red and green cabbage, sliced finely • 5 spring onions, sliced • 2 carrots, julienned • 10 ears of baby corn, sliced • 30 snow peas, stringed and halved widthways • ½ cup basil leaves, roughly shredded • ½ cup coriander, roughly shredded • 1 cup roasted cashew nuts • oil for deep-frying • rice vermicelli noodles, cut roughly into 10cm lengths

Whisk the palm sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, rice vinegar and Japanese chilli in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Combine the vegetables, herbs and cashew nuts in a separate bowl. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Cut the noodles into roughly 10cm lengths, holding them over a bowl so they don’t scatter. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by adding a few small noodle pieces (when the noodle immediately puffs up and rises to the surface, the oil is ready). Add the noodles in small batches (they will triple in size as they cook). As they puff and rise to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Toss the noodles through the vegetable mixture, crushing the noodles lightly so they are well mixed with the coleslaw. Add the dressing just before serving, and toss through to coat thoroughly. Serves 4

Mariana & Peter Esterhuizen

Chef Mariana and her husband Peter own Mariana’s in Stanford in the Western Cape. They source their ingredients from their vast fruit and vegetable garden. Mariana’s, 12 Du Toit Street, Stanford, 028-341-0272 How did you start your garden? My father was a keen gardener and I grew up with a vegetable patch in the back garden. What was the first thing you ever grew? I claimed a barren bit of soil behind the garage when I was about eight years old and planted pineapple tops and banana peels! But my success rate was very poor, so my grandfather, also a keen vegetable gardener, took me in hand and under his instruction my very first successful crop was a row of beautiful red radishes. What have you had the most success growing? Stanford has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall, so broad beans grow almost without any trouble here. Fig trees and Cape gooseberries were common in our grandmothers’ gardens with good reason: once established, they will produce a crop every season with minimal maintenance. What would you recommend as a starting point for growing your own fruit and vegetables? Just start today. Whether you sprout a few seeds in a jam jar, plant a lemon tree in a pot, grow basil on a sunny balcony or plant up an acre of land, it really doesn’t matter. Once you’ve nurtured a plant and have experienced the joy of harvesting and eating something that you grew yourself, you will never look back. Why do you think growing your own will be a big trend in the future? To grow something edible, on a small scale, is really within reach for most of us and there is an incredible side effect to it. Apart from all the environmental bonuses, gardening is an activity that provides you with a crop to look forward to. What do you love most about your garden? The early morning is a precious time in the garden.

FIG AND CHÈVRE SALAD WITH TARRAGON

80g macadamia nuts • 200g chevin goat’s cheese • 30ml fresh tarragon, finely chopped • 80ml white balsamic vinegar • 6 medium-sized ripe figs, quartered • 30–40ml macadamia oil • 120g mixed green salad leaves with rocket

Preheat the oven to 120ºC. Bake the macadamia nuts on a tray for 10 minutes. Roll the cheese into about 12 even-sized balls and then roll the balls in the tarragon. Heat 40ml of the white balsamic vinegar in a frying pan. Sauté half of the figs until the pan juices become syrupy. Remove the figs with a slotted spoon and repeat with the remaining figs. Add the remaining 40ml of white balsamic vinegar to the pan to deglaze and pour off the syrupy juice. Whisk the macadamia oil into the pan juices to make a dressing. Arrange the mixed green salad leaves, macadamia nuts, figs and chevin balls on a platter or divide between four serving plates. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve. Serves 4

This article was originally featured in the January/ February 2012 issue of House and Leisure...

 

Food production and recipes Mariana Esterhuizen, Raphaella Frame, Susan Greig, Jane Griffiths, Nikki Werner

Production Raphaella Frame, Heather Boting Photographs Sean Calitz, Vanessa Lewis