Seasons at Home

Review by Gail Thomas

In her latest book house and garden expert Holly Kerr Forsyth has compiled a collection of seasonal recipes to celebrate the bounty of fresh produce from the garden.
Each chapter covers a season and along with contemplating a tomato and anchovy tart or rhubarb streusel cake for spring picnic hamper, there are plenty of garden-related hints on bringing flowers indoors, how to keep cut flowers fresh and skillfully arranging them. Summer sees grape and nectarine gratin or making an eye-catching moulded frozen ice bowl dotted with herbs and flowers, a perfect receptacle for serving prawns or an icy fruit sorbet. Getting into the festive spirit there are also details for making decorative flower wreaths, daisy balls and centerpieces for the festive table.

Carrot and ginger soup will bring out the autumn glow while quinces, with pork, baked, in a gooey cake or add to an aromatic autumn fruit pie packed with apples, plums and apricots show off their versatility in a season when it’s also the time to stock up the store cupboard. Preserves, fruit chutney or green tomato and chilli jam and don’t forget to think ahead and plant hyacinths, daffodils, tulips and other bulbs for spring flowering
Winter brings hearty offerings, an array of curries, poached pears with star anise and juniper or stuffed baked apples while you can also turn your hand to making potpourri, studded orange balls or pomanders, there’s even hints on keeping poultry – and the perfectly boiled egg.

Seasons at Home reflects Holly Kerr Forsyth’s unique style, passion for food and practical information on flower arranging, decorating the table to suit an occasion, and growing potted plants to bring indoors.

by Holly Kerr Forsyth, MUP $34.99

Maggie’s Verjuice Cookbook

Review by Gail Thomas

When it comes to verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes, Maggie Beer’s effervescent personality and enthusiasm sum it up. “I just can’t help myself when it comes to verjuice! I use it in place of lemon juice or vinegar to bring the gentlest lift of flavour to everything – from grilled vegetables, meat or fish, pastas, risottos, salads and hearty one-pot dishes to delicate custards, old-fashioned puddings and decadent tarts. I can’t imagine cooking without it.”

Verjuice is a virtuoso performer, an acidulant that has been used in Europe and the Middle East peasant cultures for centuries. After reading about this fascinating ingredient in various books, and given her affinity towards sour flavours, Maggie’s interest was piqued. In 1984, with an unsold crop of riesling grapes on their farm, Maggie enlisted the help of a winemaker in an endeavor to produce verjuice rather than see the fruit go to waste. However without a recipe, and some exploding flagons later, a certain amount of fine tuning was obviously warranted! Today Maggie’s verjuice is a kitchen staple in households everywhere and a mainstream product readily available in the marketplace thanks to her foresight, tenacity and pioneering spirit. Read more

Life in a Gall

Review by Gail Thomas

The Biology and Ecology of Insects that Live in Plant Galls

This comprehensive handbook, complete with full colour photos will be a useful tool for entomologists, botanists, natural history enthusiasts and native plant nursery managers as well as bushwalkers, forestry students and managers.
Gall-inducing insects can cause problems for agriculture, forestry and horticulture and this book covers the whole gamut from explaining what Australian plant galls are and how they are caused, the little known gall-inducing insects and their host plants to the problems they cause, their enemies and also the benefits associated with gall-inducing insects.
The book explores the ways the insects have adapted to living part of their lives in the confined spaces of galls, and describes the strategies employed by different insect groups to find a suitable site to induce a gall, obtain food, mate and escape the gall. It also looks at the predators, parasitoids, inquilines, kleptoparasites and micro-organisms that prey on gall-inducing insects and the ways the insects defend themselves from these enemies, giving examples of several pest species.
On the positive side, the book describes the essential services gall-inducing insects provide by pollinating figs, controlling invasive weeds and contributing to indigenous food. There are also tips for people who want to collect and study galls and a glossary of scientific terms making this a useful title to a wide range of readers. Buy it from an independent bookshop, borrow it from a library or buy a copy online at the CSIRO website
by Rosalind Blanche, CSIRO Publishing, $29.95.

Bell chillies

Article by Gail Thomas

Bell chillies

Bishops Crown or Christmas bell chillies (Capsicum baccatum) produce masses of decorative red fruit making an eye-catching garden display resembling a Christmas tree of baubles, as well as being a tasty treat in the kitchen. While some chillies can be deceivingly hot, these little beauties are more on the mild side making them extremely versatile for an array of culinary applications. Read more

Wallflowers

Wallflowers of many different colours

Wallflowers are now found in many different colours

Wallflowers in a wall

The wild wallflower is often found growing in walls

The original wallflower (Erysimum cheiri) is a perennial that is often found growing wild in Europe on cliff faces and in the stone walls of old buildings. The flowers are sweetly scented and range from golden yellow to orange. Country people would pick the flowers and carry them as posies to festivals and gatherings.

Read more

  • All words and images © Copyright Penny Woodward 2017.
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