Melbourne in March is justly famous for superb weather – warm days with just a light breeze, mellow afternoons, and cool evenings. Perfect weather for gardening. I have made jars of pesto and still have armfuls of basil. Reminder to self. Don’t plant so much next year! I have made two batches of cumquat marmalade and there is enough fruit for another batch. And I rescued my almond crop before the birds found it. The leaves of the stripped crabapple trees are just starting to turn a bit golden and the first leaves of the glory vine have drifted down. The first few pomegranates are ripening on my tree. They do have to struggle for sunshine so will not be prize specimens.
In the vegetable department I still have wonderful crops of climbing yellow beans, bush beans both green and yellow, capsicums, round zucchini, two varieties of eggplant, and the very last of the stunning tomatoes. I just couldn’t eat them fast enough so I made several pans of roasted tomato sauce and I have frozen it. Each container provides a perfect sauce for a grilled eggplant or a bowl or two of pasta, enlivened with more of that basil and some extra virgin olive oil. I have also harvested my first ever watermelon and I was really very excited about it. Next year I will be more careful about pollinating more flowers to get more than one melon. And the Chantenay carrots were very successful and I have sowed a third crop.
I am about to publish my memoirs and am feeling both excited and anxious about it! A Cook’s Life hits the bookshops on March 21. One’s own life is certainly very interesting to explore. The challenge is to do it in a way that is not seen as self-indulgent, engages the reader, maybe leads to personal reflection, even some questions, and gives a convincing picture of a certain period in our history….One of the strongest motives for writing the book was because I wanted to tell the story of Australia’s food development, the importance of our migrants, and the rapid rise of restaurant culture from the late sixties to today.
Once you have read mine, another book to look out for is Annie’s Garden to Table written by my long-ago apprentice, the very talented Annie Smithers owner and chef at her bistro in Kyneton in country Victoria. I had a quick peep at her preview copy and was enchanted. There is more about country life and country cooking in Rosa’s Farm by Rosa Mitchell. Both books have me thinking up some delicious rustic lunches. Rosa’s book has also had me planning where I can plant the cicoria that I have ordered from The Italian Gardener (www.theitaliangardener.com.au)
The planting of the cooler weather crops may have to wait until I return from my own book tour which will take me to most states and a variety of venues over the next four weeks.
In amongst the touring and talking will be a delicious little Easter break with friends.