Friday, January 21, 2011

Art and Crafty

Chapter, the Fifth:   In which I confess my long-standing affection for seed catalogues and finally put this affection to good use.

I love Digger’s seed catalogues, I always have.  I love the gorgeous, thick,  recycled paper on which they are printed. I love their vibrant covers which change with the seasons. I love their endless collections of wondrous almost-vanished veggie varieties. I love their idiosyncratic prose, their wacky, almost-evangelical arguments for heirlooms over hybrids and I love the way they back up their case with pages and pages of beautifully photographed produce.  I’m not even a paid up Digger’s member, I just call them up every now and then and ask them to mail me a catalogue. And then I pour over it for hours, planning glorious gardens of mysterious heirloom vegetables - tiger-patterned tomatoes, tiny orange eggplants, chillies of all shapes and sizes, magical moon and stars watermelons, frilly freckled lettuces, candy-striped carrots and rainbow corn.

The problem is, I’ve never been one for growing veggies from seed. I can see how potentially rewarding it is – I just haven’t had a huge amount of success in the past. Things don’t come up. Or they do, and then I forget to water the seedlings and they dry out.  Or they take forever and I lose interest.  There are a thousand things that can go wrong between opening the seed packet and planting out the seedlings and generally at least one of them does.  I plant things from seed if I can sow them directly, otherwise I don’t bother.  

And so for me, the Digger’s catalogue has always been a bit of an empty addiction.  I read them cover to cover and leave them stacked under the coffee table – saving them for I don’t know what.  I can never bear to throw the lovely things out and so they accumulate (neatly) in the loungeroom, or as my collection has grown, slotted inconspicuously amongst the gardening magazines on the bookshelf. That was until the other day, when in a divine moment of inspiration, I finally realised just why I’d been collecting them all these years.

During my holidays I’ve been covering the daggy old cardboard book boxes from my classroom with recycled wrapping paper and finishing them off with a coat of Mod Podge. What can I say; I like my classroom to look nice.  Anyway, at some point it struck me that finally, I’d found the perfect use for my seed catalogue collection.  The thick pages are a dream to glue onto the box, no creases, no tears. They’re easy too, you can bang them on overlapping any which way and they just work. And, under a thick lacquer of Mod Podge, the multi-coloured magnificence of the veggies and flowers acquires a whole new glowing level of gorgeousness and gorgeousity.

Before and after below. Check it....




Thursday, January 6, 2011

First Fruits

tomatoes (various), lettuce and basil

Cooking with the fruits of your own labours has become something of cliché. Jamie, Stephanie, Maggie, wherever you look they’re all doing it – in books, on telly, at your local freakin’ primary school.  Everyone who's anyone is banging on about the wonders (environmental, social, healthful, and above all spiritual) of growing and eating your own (organic) produce. And yet, you know, they’re right. At the risk of sounding like a complete tosser, there really is something genuinely magical about cooking and eating stuff you’ve grown yourself. 

the noble, black russian
So, last night, to celebrate the ripening of my first tomatoes - Black Russian, Principe Borghese and Tiny Tims, in case you’re interested - I made myself a simple, delicious meal of cheese and tomatoes on toast. Except of course, being part of the Jamie Oliver generation, I rubbed the bread with garlic first. This not only added a whole new level of deliciousness to my dinner, it transformed my humble toastie into a glorious continental wonder; that ubiquitous dinner party starter and oft-mispronounced, cafe classic....  


In case you've been living on the moon for the past 15years and don't have a dozen bruschetta recipes banging around in your kitchen collection already, my version went a little something like this...

Backyard Bruschetta

nice bread, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced in half
backyard tomatoes, sliced
a few leaves of (home grown) basil
salt and pepper
cheese, cut into slices (I just used cracker barrel)

look at those handsome black russians
Toast the bread then rub it really well on both sides with the garlic. Place the tomatoes on the toast, salt and pepper them well, then tear up the basil leaves and sprinkle them on top. Lay the cheese on top of the tomatoes until they are covered up - you can never have too much cheese. Pop under the grill until the cheese is golden brown. Any excess cheese will run off onto the tray where it will go all lovely and crunchy – I told you could never have enough cheese.

Cut each bruschetta in half and enjoy them with a glass of ginger beer, preferably in the backyard. As you crunch through each wonderful slice, take a moment to marvel again at that simple and oft-repeated truth...the world has many things in it but none of them are quite as delicious as a tomato that you’ve grown yourself.