I just couldn’t garden without the help of these two wonderful boys, Ambrose and Angus. Today, a passing tourist spotted them and asked: “What do you do with them?” To which I replied: “Love them!” (As the tourists were helping themselves to silver beet from the roadside garden, I didn’t like to say: “And I nab their 4 buckets of donkey pooh a day for the vege patch!”)
Monthly Archives: October 2015
Cool-climate gardening and acid soils make for stunning rhodos – and a few other spring delights as well.
Wild wind is knocking the garden around dreadfully, and torrential rain is flooding the paths but frothy new-season dill just keeps on growing, tucked snugly into a protective layer of mulch. And inside a large plastic cloche, bright green rocket, frill-edged mizuna, baby lettuces and coriander wave to the cold world from their heat-drenched haven. The fire is going, there’s loads of hot water for baths and as long as we keep pretending it’s still winter, we’ll survive! Ah, well, what doesn’t do for sure you makes you strong …
The roadside garden has been buffeted for three weeks, now, by gale force winds. ‘Enervating’ doesn’t even describe how exhausting it is to garden in these ghastly conditions. Yesterday, I actually found myself sheltering the shelters covering the silver beet seedlings! But things are growing, all the same: cavelo nero, cone-head cabbages, spinach, coriander and parsley. And broad beans are popping up through the ground. The gooseberry bush is in flower and the rhubarb is covered in fresh green leaves and pretty bright stalks.
Sometime, the passersby who stop to gather food from the garden leave little gifts. Often, it’s a thank you note which I find, sometimes many days later, blown into a bush and covered in delicate dew drops. Once, I found a bottle of beer ‘planted’ in the garden (perfect for hot-day weeding!). Another time, someone popped three packets of seed into my mail box. This week, a treasure appeared when a local farmer deposited a bale of haylage beside the garden. It makes wonderful mulch and is also a great medium in which to grow potatoes. How lucky I am to have such thoughtful neighbours.
On an amusing note, I see that wild honesty has colonised the roadside garden – very appropriate given that the garden is self-regulating and relies on the honesty of those who gather from it to take no more than they require. Clever flower!
(Alias Greek Peasant-pie)
- 3/4 of a 9 litre bucket of washed, well-drained, loosely-packed wild and/or garden greens
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 free-range eggs
- salt & pepper to taste
- optional: 1 cup of cheese (crumbled feta or grated cheddar) or 1 cup of fried, crumbled tempeh.
Finely chop the greens. Whisk the oil and eggs together. Reserve 1/8 cup for later use. Add egg-oil mix and seasoning to the greens and stir vigorously. Add any of the optional ingredients and mix well. Leave for 20-30 minutes for the greens to wilt.
With olive oil, grease an oven tray.
This is the traditional Greek peasant version of filo. It can be replaced with commercial filo or puff pastry but the Greek version is easy to make and is much nicer.
3 cups plain white flour plus extra for rolling
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp extra olive oil
Enough hot (but not boiling) water to make a soft, kneadable dough.
Mix together all ingredients, except for the second measure of olive oil, and knead until a soft, pliable dough results. Take 2/3 of the dough and divide it in two evenly-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Flatten each ball into a side-plate sized disc. Paint the upper surface of one of the discs with olive oil. Place the second disc on top of this and seal the two discs together by firmly pinching the edges. Roll out this double-disk, using the Greek rolling-pin method, below, until it is almost as large as the greased oven tray. It will form the pie-base.
Repeat this process using the remaining 1/3 of the dough (your two discs will be smaller). It will form the pie-lid and it will be smaller than the base.
Lay the pie-base on the greased oven tray. Pile the greens-mixture onto it, keeping it back about 6 cm from each edge of the base. Lay the pie-lid over the greens. Using a pastry brush and water, paint around the exposed edge of the pie-base. Bring the edges of the pie-base up and over onto the pie lid, pressing lightly to seal. Using a pastry brush and the reserved egg and oil mix, glaze the top of the pie.
Bake at 180 C for around 50 minutes (the pie contents will settle considerably and the pastry will turn golden). This pie is traditionally eaten warm or cold but not hot.
The art of the Greek rolling pin
A Greek rolling pin is nothing more than a cut-down broom handle. Mine is 80 centimetres long (I wouldn’t go any shorter) and two centimetres in diametre. Once you’ve got the hang of using it, I guarantee you’ll never return to a regular rolling pin, no matter what it is you’re rolling out. Here’s how it’s used to make peasant-pie (spanikopita):
- Generously sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour.
- Generously sprinke the upper surface of the disk of dough with flour.
- Roll out the dough in both directions until it is roughly the size of a dinner plate.
- Sprinkle the table and the upper surface of the dough generously with flour.
- You’re ready to roll again, this time in just one direction. When it becomes difficult to roll the sheet any flatter, employ the Greek technique below.
- Begin with your hands in the centre of the rolling pin. Roll the pin back and forth a few centimetres at a time, gradually winding the dough onto the pin as you go. As you do this, you are simultaneously pressing down lightly on the dough and moving your hands across it toward each end of the pin. Keep bringing your hands back to the middle of the pin and repeating the action until all the dough is rolled firmly around the pin. As you roll, your hands will actually be pressing down lightly on the several layers of dough wrapped around the pin but, if you’ve sprinkled on enough flour, the layers won’t stick together.
- Keeping the sheet of dough rolled up round the pin, sprinkle the table with flour again. Unroll the sheet onto the table and sprinkle it generously with flour. Roll out the sheet again, as described above, until the dough is about 2 to 3 millimeters thick.
- Keeping the dough wound around the pin, lay the pin across one end of the greased baking tray baking tray and slowly unwind it until the dough covers the tray.
- Repeat this process to roll out the pie-lid.