Environment

Kitchen garden: solution for the need of more space

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Appropriate for this literary bent couple, Robert Hefner and Peggy Daroesman's favourite recipe came from a book of fiction Peggy was reading when they were living in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2007-2008 while she was working for the Australian National University.

She has forgotten the name of the book or the author but Meenal was a character in the book.

Bob Hefner and Peggy Daroesman with the fresh garlic.

Bob Hefner and Peggy Daroesman with the fresh garlic.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Bob and Peggy started gardening together in Watson, then had a vegetable garden in Hawker. After a move to Narrabundah, Bob built three wicking beds for growing garlic, tomatoes, herbs and salad greens but they wanted more space so joined the local community garden. Both of Roberts parents grew up on farms in North Carolina as he did, alongside vegetable gardening and broadscale mixed farming.

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He has grown ginseng and a stevia plant from seed that he kept alive through four Canberra winters. He says garlic is a favourite plant which has few demands but punches way above its weight in terms of payback. Peggys home garden is a sea of blue aquilegias and borage with its edible, bee-attracting flowers, there is a yuzu tree and a fig and Bobs bed of soft neck garlic which has just been harvested.

Pialligo Garden Lots was the solution to the couples yearning for more space. Owner and farmer Roy Priest irrigates the plots three times a week and an annual fee includes Pialligo-grown lucerne mulch and a shed. They started with a 25 sqm plot and now garden 75 sqm on two plots with friends. Peggy calls the soil luscious.

When we met on site, Bob and Song Chen were pulling the first row of garlic. The second, third and fourth rows came from Wynlen House in Braidwood and include Turban, Monaro Purple, Italian and Spanish Roja which supply a mix of early and late harvest for storage.

Bob Hefner and Song Chen harvesting garlic at Pialligo Garden Lots.

Bob Hefner and Song Chen harvesting garlic at Pialligo Garden Lots.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

When they started at Pialligo last December, Bob and Peggy weeded and popped seeds of heirloom French Breakfast radishes into little hills and they were picking and eating them within four weeks. Other leaves appeared as volunteers and turned out to be daikon.

Tomatoes, including saved seeds of a 1940s ox-heart variety from friends, were harvested and preserved to a recipe from an Italian fellow gardener – chop the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and roast in a slow oven for an hour, cool then freeze. Cucumbers came for free, hiding in a punnet of beans, and one cucumber was half a metre long when discovered.

Peggy made cucumber pickles using Stephanie Alexanders sisters pickling recipe. The latest fave dish at home is a prawn and asparagus stir fry with Korean sweet potato-based glass noodles. They consult vegetarian books from Moosewood Kitchen to River Cottage, use Ottolenghi recipes, and from Peggys Asian roots are stir fries and lightly cooked fresh vegies and, from family, Bobs mothers Dixie beans.

Bob Hefner showing off his garlic harvest.

Bob Hefner showing off his garlic harvest. Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

Here is the stolen curry recipe. Peggy makes the curry and Bob cooks the rice and makes the
kachumber.

MEENALS CHICKEN CURRY

  • 1 chicken breast

Marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5cm fresh ginger, grated
  • half tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • half tsp turmeric
  • half tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Aromatics:

  • 4 dried curry leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • strip of cinnamon bark
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups liquid (water or stock)
  • half tsp black pepper
  • half tsp turmeric
  • half tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • half tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • juice half a fresh lemon
  • half bunch fresh coriander
  1. Mix all marinade ingredients and rub on chicken, leave covered until needed.
  2. Heat oil on low heat and fry the aromatics for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the chopped onion and cook till golden.
  3. Add tomato, cover pot and cook for three minutes. Add quarter cup liquid, cover and simmer until liquid has evaporated. Do this twice.
  4. Stir in pepper, turmeric, and powders, cover and simmer for five minutes. Add half cup liquid, cover and simmer until evaporated. Add another half cup liquid, cover and simmer until evaporated.
  5. Add the chicken in its marinade and the garam masala, increase heat to medium and add the remaining liquid, cover and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cook until chicken is tender and liquid has thickened slightly.
  7. Add the lemon juice and fresh chopped coriander. Serve with rice and pappadums.

KACHUMBER

  1. Finely chop a small cucumber, medium ripe tomato and some red onion and mix together.
  2. Add salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar to taste. (You can also use spring onion, capsicum and other crisp vegetables for this easy side salad).