Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Up in the clouds at Kings Walden

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the December 18th, 2020

To spoil Keith for his birthday, I arranged a few nights at King’s Walden, just outside Tzaneen in Limpopo province. I have wanted to visit here for years. Friends have phoned me while enjoying a picnic under the trees, telling me I HAVE to come to this garden. I’d salivate over Bridget Hilton-Barber’s magnificent photos on her Facebook page, with endlessly different views and moods of this beloved garden. So; finally, we were going to visit. Bridget was expecting us around midday on Sunday but to winkle ourselves out of our hunkering lockdown shells took a while. Just after midday I was eating my padkos sarmies sitting in the Combi – in the driveway.

If you are a hardware store nut, the R71 between Polokwane and Tzaneen is the road to take. It is hardware store heaven; I stopped counting after 30. In the town of Nobody, where there is almost one on every block, we spotted Mr Price Hardware Store (no relation to MR P nationally) and Xpress Build Nobody. (There was also a workshop and petrol station called Total Nobody.) After Nobody comes Moria, where SA’s largest Christian gathering takes place twice a year. After that the road begins to climb into forested hills, mostly plantations, but pockets of rich indigenous forest remain.


King’s Walden floats above Tzaneen in the Agatha Forest. We arrived as the sun was setting, just in time to walk across the lawn and lose myself to the view dropping away from my feet: the blue and purple Wolksberg mountains dissolving into the distance, lights beginning to twinkle in the fertile valley below and the famous stark ‘lightning tree’ etched against pink and orange clouds.

This massive blue gum was planted by Bridget’s grandfather’s first wife, an Australian who brought saplings as a reminder of home when she came to marry a man she had never met. He was Billo Tooley, who bought this farm just over a century ago and named it after the English village where he was born. His parents ran a parklike estate and Billo, following in their green footsteps, set about growing food. But the climate of this verdant farm was very different to his home village and soon avocados, tomatoes, litchis, oranges, pecans, granadillas and more flourished. Unfortunately, his Australian wife did not and she passed away, leaving her gum saplings to grow into stately trees. It was under one of these that Elsie Dickson, a 1930s journalist from Johannesburg, marveling at the same view I was now soaking up, famously said “Oh, it’s so beautiful here, I never want to leave.” Standing next to her, Billo replied to the woman he had just met, “Marry me and you’ll never have to.” And she did.

Romance and tragedy run deep in these gardens. In her best-selling book, Garden of my Ancestors, Bridget writes of the sorrows and joys of Elsie and Billo and their descendants. Of wild champagne parties and fiery creativity. Of tragic deaths and how, through it all, this garden, this healing spiritual haven was at the centre, holding the frayed threads and weaving them back together again.

The farmhouse sits atop a vast lawn which drops down into the gardens. Elsie created the structural bones of this garden, with her vision of creating a ship sailing south into the mountains. She sculpted the terraces and wide steps and began the tradition of using sculptures (particularly lions) and fountains.

Her daughter Tana, free-spirited, wilful and wild, poured her soul into these gardens. And Tana’s daughter, Bridget, who has inherited her ancestors’ independent and creative genes (and some of the wild ones!), is continuing the custom.

On the ‘prow’ of Elsie’s boat, on the southernmost tip, is the Bibighar Garden, named after a place in Mayapore in India, made famous in Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet. At its centre is a round reflecting lake, watched over by a pair of white sphinxes. Reflected in the water is an evocative ‘ruin’ with crumbling walls and an atrium.

Leading from the lake are winding paths to explore and discover the explosions of colour, secret courtyards, Italianate statuary, cool white gardens, endless flowing water and arches framing breath-taking views.

Although a one-day visit would suffice, it takes a few days to really do these gardens justice and connect with the spiritual energy that dances and shines here. To honour the many departed souls whose stories and lives are entwined in this garden and who are commemorated here, on benches and fountains, courtyards, steps and statues.

Cinnamon from homemade morning breakfast roll wafts through the lounge as we browse through the extensive library (this is a literary family).

The farmhouse is now a boutique hotel, with superb meals created by Michelin trained chefs. My favourite was a deceptively simple tomato tart, roasted until caramelised and a bit blistered, wrapped in a butter puff pastry base.

Almost all the produce is local, sourced from nearby fertile farms and dairies. The beer is from Zwakala Brewery in nearby Magoebaskloof. Its name means Come Closer. Which is what King’s Walden invites us to do.

One night, sitting on the outside deck with a cool evening breeze playing at our shoulders, we sip local pink gin and listen to a Spotted eagle owl, whoo whoo as it swoops into the forest. We take photos of the lightning tree, using a torch to illuminate it and a long shutter speed. The results show the bare bones of the tall stately gum standing out against the starry sky. On the night that Elsie died, this gum tree that had stood sentinel over the gardens she created, was struck by a freak bolt of lightning, killing it instantly. Nature saying a dramatic farewell to an ancestor of this garden.

Roast butternut with beluga lentils, Rainbow chard and yoghurt.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the December 12th, 2020

This dish is deceptive, using simple ingredients to create layers of complex flavour and contrasting texture. It’s a real “waste not want not” dish, with all parts of different plants being used.

The butternut.

  • Peel and scoop out seeds. Put these in a baking dish and toss with olive oil and spices. (I used cinnamon, pul biber and salt.)
  • Chop the butternut into chunks and toss with olive oil and spices (cinnamon, garlic powder, cumin, salt and ras el hanout)
  • Place in the oven at 210. Toss the skins/pips every 15 mins or so. After about 20 mins turn heat down to 180. Keep tossing skins and remove them when they are completely browned and crisp.
  • Cook the butternut until soft. Remove from the heat and sprinkle chopped mint over the top.

Meanwhile . . .

  • Cook the beluga lentils in stock until done. (I used a porcini stock.)
  • Make a sauce for the lentils by blending: coriander stems and roots, garlic cloves, harissa paste, a couple of anchovies and olive oil. Cook over a low heat for about ten minutes.
  • Mix the sauce with the lentils along with some purple basil leaves and finely sliced Rainbow chard leaves and stems (a mix of red, yellow, cerise and orange).

Serve the butternut with the lentils, add a good dollop of yoghurt and top with the crispy skins and pips.

This is really really good!!!

Roast stuffed marrow.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the December 8th, 2020

It’s Marrow Season. A prolific and delicious producer. Here is a recipe for seasonal marrows and tomatoes.

  • Slice marrows in half length ways and scoop out seeds
  • Fill with stuffing (I used leftover falafel crumbled and mixed with sliced Swiss chard. Use your imagination – great for many leftovers.)
  • Place in a baking dish and bake at 210 for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile: Roughly chop one large tomato, a large bunch of basil, a jalapeño and garlic cloves. Add a big handful of cherry tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic reduction, salt and pepper. Mix together.
  • Remove stuffed courgette from the oven and place the tomato mix around the sides. Cover with foil and bake for another 15 minutes
  • Mix together the remaining crumbled falafel with some melted butter and feta cheese.
  • Open foil and scatter the falafel mixture over the top of the marrow.
  • Turn the grill on and cook until browned.

Super yummy Soup

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 6th, 2020

Whenever I make Tandoori chicken, we never eat it in one sitting (one whole chicken usually lasts about four meals.)

The final meal is always soup, using the bones to make stock. Tonight (with a lovely chill after the rain) was a hearty one, with red lentils, bulgur wheat and red rice. Most delicious. Best served with crusty, home-made sour dough bread.

  1. Shred any last chicken off the bones. Slice an onion and add it and the chicken bones to a pot, with a dash of olive oil. Sweat for about five or so minutes (until the onion is translucent). Add about a litre of water and cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes or so.
  2. Roughly chop two ripe tomatoes and slice two fat garlic cloves. Place in another pot and cook over medium heat, mooshing them as they soften, for about ten minutes. Add a dollop of butter.
  3. Remove bones from stock and add garlic tomato along with shredded chicken, a good dollop of tomato paste, pinch or three of sugar, a heaped tablespoon of dried mint (preferably Turkish which has a unique flavour) a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika and salt to taste.
  4. Add 1/2 cup each of red lentils, bulgur wheat and red rice. (Add more water if needed.) Cover and simmer until these are cooked but still have some bite.
  5. Add a good few squeezes of lemon and salt to taste.
  6. Serve with thick yoghurt mixed with dried mint.

Hot and spicy.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 11th, 2020

We spent nine months in SE Asia in 1999-2000. This meal harkens back to that trip. Sweet, spicy, salty, fresh. Delicious. And quick to make.

First – cook basmati rice.

Mince

  • Slice one yellow onion and sweat in peanut oil until translucent. 
  • Chop ginger (half a thumb) and add to onion. 
  • Add 500g beef mince and two chopped cloves of garlic. 
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until mince changes colour. 
  • Add 2 Tbs fish sauce,  2 Tbs dark soy sauce, 2 Tbs brown sugar and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add a finely chopped hot red chilli and stir through. Simmer. 
  • Taste and add a dash of mirin and lemon juice to taste. And a pinch of salt and more sugar/chilli if needed. (It is supposed to be quite strong tasting – you will be mixing it with vegetables and rice.) 
  • Simmer a minute longer and add a bunch of roughly chopped coriander and whole Thai basil leaves. 

Vegetables

  • Roughly slice: green beans, peas, cauliflower florets and courgettes. 
  • Dice 2 cloves of garlic. 
  • Stir fry veg in this order: cauli, beans, courgettes, peas. Add garlic and stir fry another minute or so. 
  • Add lemon juice, a dash of teriyaki, a pinch of salt, grind of black pepper and poppy seeds. Stir fry a minute or so more. 
  • Serve a generous portion of basmati rice in bowls with the vegetables and beef on top. 

Noodle soup basics.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the July 25th, 2020

I only began cooking after spending two months in Thailand in 1990. I fell in love with the hot, sour, sweet and salty flavours and wanted to recreate them at home. Since then I’ve explored many other cuisines but a perfectly balanced noodle soup still is one of my favourite meals.

Start by making a flavourful broth. I often use the leftovers of a roast or tandoori chicken, which increases the flavour. Simmer in a pot with some flavourings such as Asian lime leaves, lemongrass and star anise. Once the broth is tasty, remove the bones and shred any remaining chicken into the broth.

  1. Meanwhile: place four chicken breasts (boneless, skinned) in a shallow container. Mix together soy sauce, Indonesian soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and sesame oil and pour over the chicken. Leave to marinade for about half an hour, turning every now and then.
  2. Chop garlic, ginger, chillies and zucchini. Shuck sweet corn off a cob.
  3. Pick a bowl of mizuna, bok choy and spring onions. Roughly chop greens and slice spring onions.
  4. Heat a cast iron pot over high heat. Remove chicken breasts from marinade and add to pan. Turn heat down a bit and cook, turning, until both sides are nicely browned. Place back into the marinade. Leave to cool for a mo, then slice and shred roughly (they will still be uncooked in the middle).
  5. Add chilli, garlic, ginger and zucchini to same pot (it will be sticky from the marinade. If needed add a little of the stock to loosen it). Cook and stir for a minute or so.
  6. Add the shredded chicken, all the marinade and the sweet corn. Mix together, cover and cook over low heat until chicken is completely cooked through.
  7. Cook noodles in boiling salted water until cooked. Drain and toss with sesame oil.
  8. Add the soup stock to the chicken. Stir through and simmer. Taste and add salt to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon.
  9. Add the chopped greens and spring onions to the pot that had the stock in, cover and leave them to wilt a tad.
  10. To serve, put some noodles on the bottom of a bowl. Place the slightly wilted greens on top of them. Spoon the soup over the top, making sure each bowl receives a good mix of chicken, corn and zucchini.

All about Beetroot!

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 27th, 2020
Beetroot is quick-growing and versatile with edible roots and leaves. It’s ideal for small gardens as it can be grown in containers and also looks pretty in a flower bed.

VARIETIES TO TRY

When growing beetroot, there are quite a few varieties to consider. The most common garden beetroot is a deep ruby red, however, there’s a surprising range available:

Chioggia, is an heirloom variety with striking concentric purple and white rings.

Albino, as its name suggests, is white. It’s much sweeter than red beetroot, and not as earthy.

Detroit Dark Red is popular and reliable. Bulls Blood is one of the deepest red varieties you can grow.

Cylindra is dark purplish red and cylindrical, ideal for preserving.

Golden Globe produces glorious golden yellow round roots.

Crosby Egyptian is a deep red variety with an unusual flattened shape.

GROWING TIPS

◦ Beetroot can be grown almost all year round, except during the cold midwinter months.

◦ Beetroot plants like fertile, well-drained soil and consistent water. This encourages them to grow fast so the roots remain sweet and tender. Unlike most other root crops, they don’t mind being transplanted, provided the seedlings are small and keep moist during the process.

◦ They can also be sown in situ. The seed looks like a clump – it’s actually a seed cluster containing a few seeds.

◦ Once they germinate, they need to be thinned out to one plant, leaving enough space for the rest to develop healthy roots. They can be left to grow in clusters, providing they have enough space to spread out. The bright green and red baby leaves and shoots of the thinnings are delicious as microgreens.

◦ They don’t like competition from weeds, so control this by mulching.

◦  Beetroot grows well with beans, lettuce and most greens, as well as any members of the brassica family. It’s a good soil improver and addition to compost, as the leaves contain high levels of magnesium and other elements.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE

◦ Add a slow-release 2:3:2 organic fertiliser such as Talborne Vita-Grow when planting and top dress with

◦ Vita-Green (5:1:5) when they are about six weeks old.

◦  They don’t like dry weather and need regular moisture otherwise they can become stringy and tough. On the flip side, too much rain can also damage them. If it’s too wet, lift them before they rot, even if they’re small.

◦  Cutworms, birds, slugs and snails will all try and nibble your beetroot, especially when young, so protect them accordingly.

HARVESTING AND COOKING

Beetroot will be ready to harvest six to nine weeks after sowing. When harvesting, twist the leaves off immediately, otherwise they’ll continue to pull nutrients out of the roots. Baby leaves can be snipped off a few at a time and added to salads, and larger leaves used in stir-fries, stews and soups. As long as sufficient leaves remain to feed the plant, you will still be able to harvest the root.

Beetroot is tasty at all stages – from raw and crunchy, to being roasted until its flavours caramelise into something completely different. Although most recipes call for beetroot to be peeled,

I often don’t peel the small home-grown ones, as they’re so tender.

When cooking red beetroot, leave about 2–3cm of the stem attached to prevent it from leaching its colour. Cook them first (steam or roast) then peel the skin off (use gloves to prevent your hands being stained red). Yellow, white, and orange beets have a milder, nuttier flavour. Roast them with other veggies as they don’t stain everything red.

The roots contain significant amounts of vitamin C and the leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A. They’re also high in fibre and antioxidants. Beetroot is among the sweetest of vegetables, containing more sugar than even carrots or sweetcorn.

SAVING SEED

Beetroot will go to seed in hotter weather, forming tall spires with pointed heads that develop into clusters of seeds. Leave these to mature and dry on the plant and then harvest the stalk. Dry seed is easily rubbed off the stems. It’s wind pollinated, and unless isolated or bagged, will cross-pollinate.

Hot Stuff Horseradish

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 14th, 2020

For more than three centuries horseradish has been used for everything from relieving back pain to an aphrodisiac. It’s a perennial member of the mustard family and both the roots and leaves are edible.

Planting pointers

Horseradish grows best in moist, well-drained soil, in full sun to dappled shade. It can be invasive if left unharvested. After harvesting, leave a few roots in the ground for next spring. In frosty areas, the leaves will die back during winter but new shoots will come up in spring.

Growing tips

Grow in spring from seedlings or fresh root. Choose a piece of root about 20cm long and about as thick as a pencil. Bury it at an angle with the narrow end 10cm deep and the thicker end 5cm below the surface. Keep it well watered until shoots appear. Leave it for the first season to build up its root system. Once big enough, it will spread its roots underground and new shoots will start sprouting around the base of the plant.

Harvesting and cooking

Harvest the roots in early winter or after the first frosts (as this makes the roots tastier) and process as soon as possible. These roots make a far stronger horseradish sauce than any commercial varieties. Pick young leaves for salads and stir-fries.

Horseradish sauce  

Be warned: fresh horseradish is potent! The first time I made horseradish sauce it felt like I’d been attacked by mustard gas. When you harvest roots they smell earthy but, tucked away in their cell walls are isothiocynates. These form part of the plant’s defence mechanism – as soon as an insect bites into a root, enzymes release this volatile pungent oil. And the same thing happens when we cut or process the roots. The enzymes continue to release hot vapours until vinegar is added, as vinegar stops the enzymes in their tracks.  If you want really hot sauce, leave the processed horse radish for a longer time and if you want milder, add the vinegar earlier  

Method
  1. Scrub roots well and peel thicker ones. Do this under running water to prevent weeping!
  2. Cut into chunks and then blend in a food processor until it reaches the texture you prefer (I like slightly chunky sauce).
  3. For every 3 tablespoons of horseradish add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a good pinch of salt.
  4. Decent into sterilised bottles, seal and store in the fridge for up to six months.
  5. For a creamier sauce blend three tablespoons chopped fresh horseradish with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon chopped chives  

Tip

Add slices of horseradish to a bottle of vodka. This preserves it and makes great flavoured vodka – perfect for a Bloody Mary.

Yoghurt making tips.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 7th, 2020
Humans have been making yoghurt for thousands of years – probably since they discovered that milk fermented while being carried in bags on the backs of camels.

Yoghurt is simple to make – but there are are few tips to making really smooth thick yoghurt.

* Heat 2 litres of full cream milk very slowly until it reaches 90°C (If you heat it too quickly the yoghurt will be grainy.)

* If you want thick yoghurt, hold it at 90°C for ten minutes. When casein (protein) in milk is exposed to the lactic acid created by culturing, it unravels and forms a 3D net, thickening the yoghurt. By heating the milk, another protein (lactoglobulin) is denatured, enabling it to connect to the 3D net, making the yoghurt thicker. The extended heat denatures most of the lactoglobulin.

* Remove from the heat and cool to 40°C.

* Mix the milk with a good few dollops of plain yoghurt (one with lactobacillus bacteria, not gelatine!).

* Keep in a warm spot overnight in a cooler box or an oven when you have finished cooking. If you have a slow cooker or a pressure cooker that doubles as a slow cooker they are very efficient.

Turkish Pea, Yoghurt & Chicken Soup.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the June 5th, 2020
I would never have thought of cooking yoghurt in a soup but when my Turkish step-mother-in-law, Sevim, made a version of this for us, I discovered how delicious it is.
This is very easy to adapt to a vegetarian soup – use vegetable stock and omit the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup long grain rice
  • 1 litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • Quarter roast chicken
  • 1 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 cups thick yoghurt
  • Handful pine nuts
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs dried mint
  • 1 Tbs pul biber
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

    Rinse the rice and cook in a cup of the stock until very soft.
    In another pot bring the remainder of the stock to a boil, add the chicken, cover and simmer until the chicken falls off the bone.
    Cook the peas and mint in salted water until just cooked. Drain and purée. Set aside
    Remove the chicken from the broth and shred chicken flesh off.
    Mix the beaten egg and flour together. Add the yoghurt and mix well. Scoop out a couple of spoons of the broth and mix into the yoghurt mixture, stirring it in well.
    Add yoghurt mix to the broth in a slow stream, stirring.
    Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
    Add the shredded chicken and simmer for further 5 minutes.
    Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Roast pine nuts in a cast iron pan, set aside
    Melt butter in same pan until browned. Pour onto a bowl and stir in mint and pul biber.
    To serve, spoon soup into a bowl, swirl the pea purée through it and top with pine nuts. Drizzle with butter. Eat with crusty olive bread.
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