Jane's Delicious Garden Blog


Delicious and easy hummus.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the November 2nd, 2019

Hummus is expensive to buy and really quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

• 1 x 400g can of drained chickpeas

• ¼ cup lemon juice plus more to taste

• 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped

• ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

• ½ cup tahini

• 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more as needed

• ½ teaspoon ground cumin

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

METHOD

1. In a food processor combine the lemon juice, garlic and salt. Blend until the garlic is very finely chopped. Leave to rest for 15 minutes – this mellows the garlic.

2. Add the tahini and blend until it’s thick and creamy, scraping the sides and bottom as needed.

3. With the processor running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons ice water. Scrape down the sides and blend until it’s smooth and creamy. (If your tahini was very thick to start, you might need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water.)

4. Add the cumin and chickpeas. Blend and add the olive oil while it’s running. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed, for about 2 minutes. Add more ice water by the tablespoon if necessary until it’s creamy.

5. Taste and add lemon and salt to taste.

6. Sprinkle pul biber on top and drizzle with olive oil.

Water-wise Vegetable Gardening

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 25th, 2019

It is very disheartening seeing our lovingly tended food plants die because of heat and lack of water. However, we can prevent this by following a few simple techniques and methods.


Create healthy soil

Water does more than provide liquid for our plants to drink. It breaks organic matter in the soil into soluble nutrients. Water carries these through the soil, to the roots and into the plant where they are put to use. Healthy soil will allow water to soak into it (rather than run off immediately), holding onto some but allowing the excess to drain away. This leaves both moisture and air in the soil pores. No-dig gardening and increasing the amount of organic matter and humus in the soil, will improve its water retention ability.

· When preparing beds for the first time, remove the topsoil and dig a 30cm deep trench.
· Add a thick layer of well-rotted manure and compost. Fill in the trench, adding the topsoil last.
· After this, never dig the soil again. Digging up and turning over the earth is more harmful than beneficial to the soil. Digging upsets the balance in soil life, destroys beneficial organisms and loses moisture and nutrients.
· Maintain fertility by adding compost and well rotted manure regularly to the surface of the bed.
· To avoid the soil compacting, never stand on the soil. Create small beds with pathways around them and edging to keep the enriched soil inside.

Mulch, mulch and more mulch

Mulching (adding leaves, compost or other organic matter to the surface of the soil) is one of the simplest yet most beneficial things we can do in our gardens. A mulched surface creates a forest floor environment that plants love. It reduces weeds and spread of disease, strengthens roots, improves the quality and fertility of the soil and most importantly retains moisture and regulates temperature.

· Preferably use organic mulches such as compost, straw, leaf mould, grass clippings, autumn leaves and clippings from shrubs – especially artemisia, sage and lavender, which constantly need trimming. Artemisia has the added benefit of repelling bugs, which hate its smell.
· Apply when seedlings are about 3 to 5 cm high. Depending on the material, mulch can be anything from 5 to 15 cm thick.
· If using fresh grass clippings, mix them with leaves first, otherwise they become dense and slimy, preventing water and air from reaching the soil.
· Leave a mulch-free circle of about 3 to 5 cm around stems to prevent rot. For larger plants with woody stems, leave a mulch-free zone of about 10 to 15 cm to prevent the bark decaying.
· Always weed and water the beds well before applying mulch.

Waterwise planting

· By practicing no-dig gardening and using smaller beds, we can space plants close together, so when they grow to full size, their leaves just touch one another. This creates a living umbrella which shades the soil, keeping it moist and requiring less watering.
· Plan ahead by sowing seeds under plants that will shortly be harvested and removed. Their leaves will provide protection and help retain moisture for germinating seedlings.
· Group plants with similar watering requirements together.
· On a slope, create terraces along contours to retain water.
· Plant cover crops such as mustard, clover and buckwheat to improve soil and avoid leaving it exposed.

Choose drought tolerant plants

You will be inviting disappointment if you sow lettuces or coriander during the hottest summer months. Rather choose plants that enjoy the heat and don’t go to seed quickly. Examples are: sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, tomatoes, beans, eggplants, rocket (which becomes spicier in hot weather), spring onions, chives, chilies and Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary.

Go undercover


Erecting a shade cloth covering or roof will reduce the effects of the sweltering sun. Keep the sides open to allow air to flow through. In hail prone areas, make the roof pitched – if flat, the stones will quickly collect and their weight will break the supports or tear the shade cloth.

Be water savvy

Even when using these methods, if there is no rain, we need to water. Drip irrigation is the most effective way to deliver water directly to the roots, without any wastage or loss from evaporation. Drip irrigation can be connected to a timer to ensure regular watering.
· If plants are drooping during a hot day, don’t worry, they are just closing stomata (minute openings in their leaves used for respiration) to retain water. If they are still drooping when it has cooled, it is time to water.
· Rather water deeply and less often than shallowly, often.
· During hot weather water either early in the morning or after the sun has set to reduce loss of water through evaporation.
· Overhead watering – especially during summer – can increase the chances of spreading disease such as mildew. However, there are times when plants benefit from increased moisture in the air from overhead watering. During hot, dry weather, increased humidity will encourage vegetables such as chillies, beans and tomatoes to flower.

TIP

Home made drip irrigation hose
You can make your own drip irrigation by piercing holes in an old garden hose using a punch or a heated needle. Attach one end to the tap and place a stopper on the other.

A Rain Dancing salad for Hot weather.

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 22nd, 2019

Phew. It was 37° yesterday and today was not much cooler. Tonight’s salad was a mixture of cooked and raw ingredients served on a bed of fresh lettuce. It included the first cherry tomatoes of the season. Served with a tahini dressing.

Here’s the recipe

Salad

Start with a bed of mixed lettuce, rocket and sorrel.

Scatter the following on top:

• Grilled haloumi cheese slices.

• Falafel broken into pieces (from last night’s dinner!)

• Tomatoes (cherry plus a larger one chopped) mixed with shredded basil.

• Parisian carrots, steamed until just tender and tossed with mint and olive oil.

• Sliced fennel bulb.

• Rose and nasturtium petals.

Dressing

Mix together: tahini (about three to four tablespoons); lemon juice (from half a lemon); dash of rice vinegar; dollop of sesame oil, sprinkle of sea salt, pinch of pul biber and a few glugs of olive oil. Add water to thin.

Time for Summer Salads

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the October 17th, 2019

I just love creating salad platters. The possibilities are endless. Tonight’s deliciousness was a bed of mixed greens, papaya, cherry tomatoes, sliced rib eye (from Boomplaats Organic Farm) toasted cumin, Gorgonzola from Linden’s Cheese Gourmet and edible flowers. served with herbed couscous.

Papaya and rib eye salad.

Pick a mix of greens (watercress, rocket, lettuce, nasturtium leaves) and spread out on a platter. On top spread the following evenly:

  • Chopped cucumber, papaya and cherry tomatoes.
  • Sliced rib eye (with a spice rib of: dried oregano and thyme, pul biber, salt, pepper, cumin, sugar and a touch of ground coffee.)
  • Toasted cumin seeds
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola
  • Rose petals, nasturtium and watercress flowers
  • Crispy sun dried onion sprinkles.

Dress with olive oil, balsamic glaze and lemon juice.

Herbed couscous

  • Pour boiling water over couscous (equal proportions). Leave to absorb.
  • Chop basil, mint and celery.
  • Mix herbs with olive oil, sea salt and pul biber. Muddle to blend and extract herb flavour.
  • Add to couscous, using a fork to fluff it up.

Yum yum yum!

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 29th, 2019

I first made this cake for Keith’s birthday in 2005 or so, after seeing the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine. I was intrigued by the ingredients. Wasabi mustard? Ginger? Sesame? In a cake??? I had to try it – despite it looking like a hectically complicated recipe.

It was so utterly scrumptious that a friend of mine said to me “If you weren’t married – I’d propose!”

In 2011, another friend (who had also been at the tea party) asked me to make the cake for her wedding.No pressure!

Her wedding was out in the bush under a massive wild olive tree, but luckily – despite the bouncy dirt road – the cakes made it intact.

On Friday I made it for the third time. To celebrate my birthday yesterday after what has been a particularly difficult year.

It is a celebration cake. One of the most delicious I’ve ever eaten. And it is worth the effort. But be warned – it might lead to unexpected proposals!!

Here is the recipe, adapted from the Bon Appetit one:

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Black pearl ganache

• 170 g dark chocolate, chopped

• ¾ cup whipping cream

• 1 teaspoon ground ginger

• ½ teaspoon wasabi powder

• 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

• 1 tablespoon golden syrup

• 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Place the chocolate in medium bowl. Bring the cream, ginger, and wasabi to boil in small pot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate; cover with plastic wrap and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth. Mix the sesame seeds and syrup in small bowl until all the seeds are well coated and stir into the chocolate mixture. Cool to lukewarm then stir in the butter. Cover and stand at room temperature overnight to set.

Ginger syrup

• 1 cup water

• ½ cup sugar

• 5 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger

• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Place the water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan, and add the bean pod. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Stand at room temperature for 1 hour for the flavours to blend.

Strain the syrup into a small bowl. Chop the strained ginger and keep it aside to be added to the cake mix. (The syrup can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate the ginger and syrup separately.)

Cake

• 2 cups boiling water

• 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 2¾ cups flour

• 2 teaspoons baking soda

• ½ teaspoon baking powder

• ½ teaspoon salt

• 2¼ cups sugar

• 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

• 4 large eggs

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter three 20 cm diameter cake pans with 5 cm high sides. Dust with flour and line the bottoms with baking paper.

Whisk the boiling water, cocoa powder and reserved chopped ginger in a medium heat-proof bowl. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Using an electric mixer beat the sugar and butter in another large bowl until fluffy, for about 1 minute. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then add the flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with cocoa mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.

Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto racks to cool completely. (Cakes can be prepared a day ahead. Wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.)

Whipped cream icing

• 2 cups chilled whipping cream

• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons icing sugar

• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

• ½ teaspoon ground ginger

• black sesame seeds for decoration

Beat the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and beat until stiff peaks form.

Using a long serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off the cakes to create a flat surface. Place one cake layer, cut side up, onto a plate. Brush the top with ⅓ cup ginger syrup. Spread half of the ganache over the top. Place a second layer, cut side up, on top of the first layer. Brush with ⅓ cup syrup, and spread with the remaining ganache. Top with the third cake layer and brush with the remaining syrup.

Spread the sides and top with whipped cream icing. Sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds. Refrigerate until the ganache is set, about 4 hours. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. (Can be made a day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Delicious served with blueberries and strawberries.

Fresh and Easy

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 20th, 2019

Abundant spring herbs add flavour to any meal. Here a blend herbs, nuts and spices create a delicious feast.

I served this chunky cashew nut pesto with herbed cous cous, tramezzini, hummus and a fresh salad. But also try it on top of roasted eggplant

Chunky Cashew nut and herb pesto.

• roast cashew nuts in cast iron pan til just browned. Remove from pan and sprinkle with pul biber.

• roast cumin seeds in same pan til fragrant and add to cashew nuts.

• blend basil and coriander leaves with olive oil.

• add cashew nut mix and blend briefly so they are chopped but still chunky.

• add salt, lemon juice and Black Gold balsamic to taste

Cous cous with herb sauce

• blend basil and parsley with olive oil.

• add Moroccan spice, lemon juice, pepper and salt to taste

• mix with fluffy cous cous.

Humus

• blend one garlic clove and about ½ a teaspoon of salt with a quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice. Leave to sit for 20 minutes. (This tempers the garlic.)

• Add ½ a cup of tahini and a tablespoon of cold water. Blend. Add another tablespoon and blend til smooth. Add more water if the tahini was very thick.

• Add ½ teaspoon of cumin, 1 Tbs olive oil and a can of drained chickpeas. Blend til smooth.

• Add more water and/or olive oil if too thick and blend. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice to taste.

• serve drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of pul biber.

Basic pest repelling spray

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the September 9th, 2019

Healthy organic gardens always have a few resident pests to provide fodder for predatory, beneficial insects, which in turn reduce the need for additional pest control. However, when these troublesome pests begin to destroy the garden, you need to take action. To dissuade them, grow strong smelling plants such as citronella pelargonium, artemisia, tansy and feverfew among your flowers and veggies. Use their leaves as pest repelling mulch or to whip up an inexpensive home-made spray.

Recipe
  • ½ bucket leaves and stems of citronella pelargonium elder, tansy, feverfew or African wormwood
  • just-boiled water
  • 2T dishwashing liquid

1. Add the water to the bucket of leaves and stems, stir and leave to stand overnight.

2. Strain, add dish-washing liquid and mix.

3. Spray onto affected plants every few days as this herbal insecticide breaks down quickly. Make sure you spray underneath the leaves as well as on top.

Tips
  • The spray will keep for up to a month.
  • Don’t discard the leaves and stems after they’ve been steeped in water, rather add them to your compost heap.
  • To increase the efficacy of the basic spray, include garlic, onion and chilli. Chop these ingredients up finely and add to the plants with the just-boiled water.
  • To repel wool-eating moths, dry the leaves of elder, tansy, citronella pelargonium, feverfew or African wormwood and place in single socks. Tie the top closed with a ribbon and tuck amongst your woollies.

Perfect Pizza base

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the August 25th, 2019
  • I love a thin crispy pizza crust and they are surprisingly easy and quick to make.
  • Here is my recipe.
  • INGREDIENTS

    •  ¾ cups lukewarm water
    • 1tsp instant yeast
    • 1½ tsp salt
    • 2 cups Tipo 00 flour
    • olive oil, for greasing

    METHOD

    1. Combine the water and yeast in a bowl and stir. Add the salt and flour and mix until combined.
    2. Turn the shaggy dough (and any loose flour) onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
    3. Shape the dough into a ball and place inside an olive oil greased bowl, turning so the dough is covered with oil. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size.
    4. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature.
    5. Place a pizza stone or baking tray in the lower middle part of the oven.
    6. Halve the dough with a dough scraper. Take one piece and form it into a large disc using your hands to pull, turn and stretch it. Place it on a 30cm piece of baking paper. If you want it even thinner, use a rolling pin. (It will stick to the paper, but when it bakes, the dough will release from the paper.) If the dough starts shrinking back, leave it to rest for five minutes before trying again.
    7. Repeat with the second half of dough.
    8. Add your toppings and place the pizza (with the baking paper) in the oven. Bake for about five minutes then rotate the pizza, removing the paper as you do. Bake for a further 5 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
    9. Repeat with the second pizza

     Makes two 25cm pizzas

    One bowl Wonder.

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the July 15th, 2019

    I love roasting a whole chicken and then using the leftovers for various meals. Tonight I made a meal served in one bowl, but each of the components is cooked separately with different flavours. This creates a wonderful mix when served over rice, with the different flavours popping out.

    It is all cooked in one pan, with each element decanted into separate bowls and kept warm.

    1. Chinese five spice eggplant.

    Cut eggplant into medium thick slices, quarter and toss with flour and five spice powder.

    Sauté quickly in olive oil until browned and soft in the middle. Remove from pan onto paper towel.

    2. Spicy carrots.

    Slice carrots into sticks. Chop garlic, ginger and fresh chilli. Segment a couple of naartjies. Sauté carrots for a minute or two until just starting to brown. Add the naartjie segments, garlic, ginger and chilli. Continue sautéing until the garlic is just starting to brown. Remove from heat and sprinkle with dried mint and a pinch of sea salt.

    3. Cashew courgettes

    Slice courgettes lengthwise into quarters. Sauté with cashew nuts until starting to brown. Sprinkle with pul biber and a squeeze of lime. Remove from heat.

    4. Chicken with delish sauce

    Add shredded roast chicken to pan, add Indonesian sweet soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir through and taste to check it is the right balance of salty and sweet. Simmer til just thickened and add a squeeze of lemon.

    Hügelkultur – sort of!

    Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the May 16th, 2019

    Years ago I created a vegetable garden for my Dad, whose back was starting to give him trouble. I used an upturned swimming pool pump cover placed on an old table. Instead of filling the entire volume with costly growing medium, I filled the curved base with a thick layer of branches pruned from a Pride of India. These were covered with a deep layer of fertile growing medium. A year or so later my Mom said she “didn’t know what was going on with Dad’s vegetable garden. It’s full of Pride of India saplings! Where could they have come from?” 🤣

    Fast forward to this week in my garden. I have two new lovely raised beds from Rain Queen.

    I have been reading about hügelkultur and thought I’d try a version in my new raised beds. But I remembered my experience with Dad’s garden, so I used well aged logs. We split them and packed the base with them (positioned vertically) and covered them with leaves, wetting and squishing them to fill the gaps.

    This filled the raised beds about two thirds. I dribbled EM over the logs (Effective Micro organisms) and added some mycorrhizal fungi. The EM will encourage the logs to break down and the fungi will help the plants’ roots take up more nutrients.

    I then covered the logs with a rich layer of compost, coco peat and Fertilis, with some Talborne Vita Veg mixed in.

    And planted up the raised bed with seedlings.

    I love experimenting with new ways of doing things. We will see how this one grows!!

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