The best quick, easy dinner in the world...

28 August, 2014

No, I am not overstating here. This is THE BEST quick, easy dinner. In the world. Ever.


Now I am a relatively new convert to this japanese pancake of supreme deliciousness.

Way back last year I had a surplus of cabbage, and I put the call out for cabbage recipe suggestion. Lily suggested this one, and I cannot be more grateful. It changed my life. Seriously.

And now I am sharing its secrets with you.

To make two large okonomiyaki:

Step 1: Run out to the garden and pick your veg, or rummage through the fridge crisper and pull out anything looking a bit saggy and generally past its prime.

I went out and gathered one of the smallest savoy cabbages and a few carrots.

Gather your other okonmiyaki required ingredients:

Take 3-4 heaped tablespoons or plain flour and 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour. Add your egg and a massively heaped teaspoon of miso paste.

Whisk this together until mostly combined.

Then add enough water (not quite a quarter of a cup for me) to make a runny batter.

Add your finely sliced veg (about 3 cups worth) and at least a good pinch of pickled ginger, also finely sliced.

Mix well so it all gets coated with the batter.

Don't worry, its not a thick batter, but it will stick together. I promise.

Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of sunflower oil and then add half your veg/batter mix. Use a spoon to bring the edges and any bits that fall out back into the patty and flatten it out until about an inch thick.

Cook well until browned, at least 4-5 minutes, then carefull flip.

Cook for another 5 mins until cooked through. Poke the middle a bit and check it isn't still gooey in the middle. No one wants to eat gooey undercooked okonomiyaki.

When you are certain its cooked through, slide gently onto your plate. Now the fun begins.

Get your okonomiyaki sauce (kinda like Asian bbq sauce) and drizzle in a crisscross fashion across the whole pancake. Then get your kewpie mayo and do the same, but in the other direction so it is perpendicular to the okonomiyaki sauce. Then top the lot with bonito flakes, dried seaweed and sesame seeds.

There you have it. The best quick, easy dinner in the world.



24 August, 2014

It is just me or is spring in the air?

Down Melbs way we've had a couple of lovely sunny days, hitting just over 20 degrees C. Given that technically we are still in winter that seems slightly unreal, but welcome none the less.

The garden seems to be loving the slightly longer days (its just light enough to pick dinner veg when I get home from work now. Yay!) and warmer temperatures.

The magnolia has started to bloom. I love this tree for its beautiful magenta flowers. Its just outside my kitchen window and I smile every time I see it.

The grape hyacynths (inherited from the previous gardener at this house) are coming up.

Moving on to blooms producing edible goodies (I hope!), the almond blossoms have just started opening.

As have the nectarine.

Other peaches and nectarines are just about to start.

Another bloom almost here is one early artichoke.

Not a bloom, but still another first (of many I hope), is the first asparagus.


And in other firsts, here are my new chickens.

They are new to me, but old chooks. I've taken them on from my grandmother who has moved house, and is about to have surgery and so will not be able to look after them for a while. They are inhabiting the converted duck pen, and seem to be enjoying it.

Any firsts of the season (which ever hemisphere you are in) happening for you?

And they're off...

19 August, 2014

Growing onions: part two...

16 August, 2014

Earlier in the year in June (was it really that long ago? Gosh time flies) I sowed the seeds for this years' onion crop.

Today I planted the seedlings out.

I have previously grown onion from seed with direct sowing (i.e. sowing the seed directly into the ground where you want to grow them). This worked to an extent, although my main problem was that I wasn't able (read: was too lazy) to thin the seedlings and I ended up with lots of small onions.

This year I have grown the seed in seed trays to plant out into their final locations. I find transplanting onion seedlings a fine line between big enough to handle and not too big to get too much transplant shock. The bigger the seedlings, the more roots, the more roots tangle and in separating them out the roots get damaged and the plants are set back trying to recover.

So this weekend the seedlings looked to be at about the right stage of growth for planting out.

Just two of eighteen seedling trays. Each one had around 30 seedlings. That makes lots of onions.

The main onion I'm growing is a white onion called 'Contessa' which grew well last year and also stored well.

I first separate out the seedlings by scrunching the tray until the soil mix loosens, then gently pulling out the seedings. I laid these out on my bed edges to keep them out of the way.

Then I use any implement handy (usually a stick of sorts, although I think I have a proper dibber somewhere) to make a small but deep hole in the soil, into which I pop the onion seedling.

Then I remove the stick and use it to drag a bit of soil around the seedling, tucking it in.

The onion seedlings are planted out around ten centimeters apart from each other. This is more work than direct sowing but is much easier than trying to sow thinly and then still have to intermittently thin anyway. I hate thinning as it always feels like I'm throwing away good plants.

The main area for the onions was in the raised bed veg patch.

Once the seedlings were in I covered the bed with plastic mesh, so that the birds can't dig them up.

In the rear bed you can seed the already established shallots, potato onions and garlic.

As I ran out of space (which I expected) I planted the remainder of the onion seedlings under the espalier apples in the orchard. Believe me, there are onion seedlings here, though difficult to see.

Please note weeds removed and dumped as mulch behind the espaliers.

I think they will be very happy there.

Now while I went to all this trouble to grow onions, nature has been working hard on my behalf. Some onions that came up on their own in the tomato bed last year went to seed. 

The seed heads had fallen over, and in yet another example of lazy gardening, I left them there.

Now I have onions in the bed. Lots of them. Yay for more onions.

However, despite my best efforts it looks like I will be thinning onion seedlings after all. Ah well.

Tomato raising strategy 2014...

08 August, 2014

As anyone growing tomatoes in a coolish climate knows, early tomatoes requires early tomato seedlings.

My strategy in previous years has been a little ad hoc. In 2013 I was away overseas at prime seedling raising time so my efforts were hampered. I sowed my tomatoes earlier than usual (in July before I left). While my house sitters looked after them and I still had live tomato seedlings when I returned in October, the tomatoes I think were a little stunted early on. I also didn't quite get my act together and didn't plant them out until November. 2013-14 was not a stellar tomato year with slow first harvests (mid Jan if I recall correctly before I tasted a ripe homegrown tomato).

The previous year (2012-13) I have sowed a little later (around late Sept-early Oct) but planted out around the same time (around October). This was the year of the infamous Tomato Trial where I pitted many varieties against each other, the winner being Garden Peach which I am growing again this year. I think getting them in the ground that bit earlier allowed them to establish better.

This year I'm going for a combination of the two: early sowing (just this weekend gone) and early planting out. This is parly informed by Foodnstuff who reported that her advice was sow early and put them outside (protected from cold winds though) as early as they are potted up. I will be trying using the greenhouse for this.

Of course, the first important task was sowing the seeds. Which meant picking the 2014-15 varieties.

This was the short list.

I am growing 24 varieties: Juane Flame (thanks Yvonne), Riesentraube (thanks again Yvonne), Pink Grape, Golden Girl, Sweet Bite, Earl of Edgecombe, Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Tommy Toe, Husky Cherry Gold, Brown Cherry, Garden Peach, New Yorker, Big White Pink Stripe, Sainte Lucie, Siberian, Rouge de Marmande, Brin de Muget, Lemon Drop, Potiron Ecaplate, Gardeners Delight and the three amazing tomatoes I bought at a farmers market and saved seed from, which will henceforth be known as Huge Tomato (because it was huge), Yellow Tomato (because it was yellow) and Black Tomato (because it was black).

Yes, I am that inventive and original: i.e. not very.

I potted these seeds into pots I have kept from previous plants bought. I like how these allow for good root development.

I filled them 3/4 full of compost, then added about two centimetres of seed raising mix.

The seeds then went in - around 4-8 of each which I will thin to the strongest seedling.

Just look at them, all ready to grow.

I then topped that with around one centimetre of more seed raising mix.

Then the went into the lounge room (the warmest room in the house in winter) above the heater, which has in previous years provided a good temparture for germination.

I water them gently (with the fabulous bottle top waterer) each day.

Hopefully they will raise their heads any day now.

Garden Share Collective: August

04 August, 2014

Welcome to this month's installment of Garden Share Collective, where gardeners across the globe share their gardening adventures. Many thanks to Lizzie for putting this all together.

My garden isn't looking all that different from a month ago.

Although yesterday morning we had the first frost of winter, which necessitated taking pretty pictures of frost covered plants.

I actually don't mind the cold. It means more chilling hours for my apples, pears, peaches and plums.

But it does mean that any gardening is done around the middle of the day when the sun has had time to warm the garden a little. And I'm wearing about five layers of clothing. At least.

Luckily one of the most pressing gardening tasks for this time of year is seedling sowing. Which can be done indoors. Yay. Which leads me to:


I planted my tomato seeds this weekend just gone.

I will blog in more detail about this later in the week.

I also have onion seedlings raised from seed which I will need to plant out into the garden in the next few weeks.


Again, not much different from last month. Plenty of cabbages and kale is ongoing.

This is a pretty representative sample of current harvests:

Veg not pictured but also harvested include lettuce, beetroots, carrots, lemons.

Fruit from the garden is limited to apples.

Only four Sundowner apples left.

I'm almost harvesting peas.

And there is a single very proactive asparagus spear.

To do:
  • Plant onion seedlings.
  • Sow seeds of eggplant and peppers/capsicums.
  • Hibernate.
How is your garden going this August?

Seed sorting...

01 August, 2014

I have finally gotten my act together and sorted my seeds for summer crops.

This always seems an activity of wishful thinking. In the midst of the darkest depths of winter I'm imagining the bountiful cornucopia of produce that the seed boxes with their seed packets promise. I'm planning how many tomato plants I'm going to grow, what varieties and where I will fit them all in.

In the deepest darkest depths of winter. When I'm so cold at times outside my hands and toes and nose are numb.

See: wishful thinking.

But I do it anyway, because I hope that earlier sowings inside where it is warm and coddled during early spring will mean early tomatoes for me. And eggplants, and melons, and peppers...

So I dragged out the seed boxes and sat on the lounge with the heater on, sorting seeds.

My seed boxes are two ex-wine glass boxes (which I have written about before), which is by far the handiest way I've found of keeping seeds. Of course I also felt the need to pretty them up. I have an Autumn-Winter box and a Spring-Summer box with corresponding season appropriate veg pictures.

Each box has six compartments which means each month of the year has a slot, and each slot is perfectly sized for standard seed packet sizes.

 I just slot the seeds appropriate for each month into the slot, which supposedly helps me to successionally sow seeds as the season progresses, although in practice I'm too lazy for this to be effective.


The July compartment was full of seeds for early sowings.

Of my 40+ varieties of tomato seed I have short-listed 24 for early sowing.

These I shall sow over the coming weekend. Yes, I will. No excuses.

Eggplants and peppers are a lower priority, but I hope to sow them in the coming weeks.

Earmarked for early September sowings are the melons, hopefully to get some early crops in around December/January.

Now I just need to get some seed raising mix (attempts at making my own have always proven too messy, so I'm lazy and just buy pre-mixed stuff) and get them into some pots.