Garden of delights

With the mess of information out there about food and nutrition, it can be hard to know how to eat well and healthily. I think Michael Pollan, in his brilliant book In Defence of Food, put it best: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (By “food” he means stuff that hasn’t been processed or tinkered with. Stuff your grandparents would have recognised. Something not in a packet.)

IMG_9217Sometimes that is so easy to do, you wonder why you don’t do it every day. And yesterday was just such a day.

Our evening meal was a magnificent combination of fresh produce, almost all of it straight from someone’s garden. The best consequence of all that freshness is that it was delicious – such a pleasure to eat, it’s easy to forget how good it is for you.

Another excellent consequence is that none of it takes long. The fresher it is the less cooking it needs. From start to on the plate in 20 minutes, without even rushing.

This meal had its beginnings at Daylesford market on a busy Easter Sunday. The prettiest punnet of small, late season tomatoes was an instant attraction. The most unusual in the collection was one with a golden peach fuzz exterior (bottom left in the picture). The free-range eggs were an obvious choice, too.

The rest of the produce came from a roadside stall I visit regularly when I’m in that part of the world. A lovely elderly man, who has worked his plot of rich earth near Trentham for more than 20 years.

Salad of tomatoes, peas, sugar snaps and greens. Perfect.

He’s a migrant, and I don’t always understand his English even after all this time, but he still manages to communicate his strict standards in producing beautiful produce without chemicals, at a price he thinks is reasonable (he’s wrong, he’s way too cheap. We usually pay at least double what he asks because I’d be just too embarrassed to pay that little).

I started dropping in for the rhubarb, which I love. I’d leave with a massive armful, taken fresh from his garden while I watched.

This time we did the picking ourselves (his shoulder’s not what it was). There was no rhubarb, but there were beans, peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, silver beet, lettuce. It’s a cold part of the world and what he has growing beautifully in his garden is not always what I’d expect.

Usually I find it all looks so great, I get carried away. This time I was glad I did.

I’m not usually much of a silver beet fan, a bit too much of it when I was a kid, but this was fantastic. Maybe there’s something in his soil, or maybe it’s just that we rarely get any produce that fresh.

The peas and sugar snaps were so sweet it was hard to stop eating them.

While this following recipe for an evening meal may sound prosaic and dull, it was magnificent. It’s all about the produce. When it’s that fresh and that good, there’s absolutely no need to add any embellishment. And of course, it would also make a perfect lunch.

Silver beer frittata with a tomato and green pea salad

Beautiful silver beet frittata.
Beautiful silver beet frittata.

Wash a bunch of silver beet. Chop off the stems and cut them into small pieces. Fry them gently in olive oil for a few minutes.

Add the sliced leaves. Cover and let them wilt. Remove from the pan and let them cool and drain, if there is any liquid left in them.

Mix six eggs, salt and pepper, half a cup of grated parmesan cheese (or whatever you have that might suit). Add the cooled and drained silver beet.

Heat oil in a skillet, and pour in the mix. When it’s cooked underneath, put it under a grill to finish.

Lots of small tomatoes, cut and tossed with a bit of salt and a couple of tablespoons of EV olive oil, and left for a few minutes
Fresh greens, washed and drained (I used the lettuce plus a few oddments of greens from my garden)
Fresh peas and sugar snap peas

Mix it all together, and add a little balsamic vinegar.

Verdict: Great combination of healthy and delicious


Corinna Hente


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