On Growing

10 Mar

Lately, say, the last year at least, I’ve not washed soil from my hands.

This, sadly, will not be an update on a bountiful garden of edible manner from heaven. So lets put that out of your mind right now.

I was reminded of this blog in a conversation, I had almost forgotten about it entirely, in fact I don’t recognize it, this space has changed like a garden changes, when nobody tends to it. It doesn’t stop, the fragile, rarer things wither away, but everything else fights for it’s space, for more space. Occasionally I gingerly glance around the corner to check if we’re still allowed to roam there, I feel like the plants own this patch now, they inherited it when I unceremoniously broke up with them in a fit of reckless abandon.

This will probably not even make it to the blog, because honestly, I can’t see a button which might facilitate that. It’s 3.27am, my house is sleepy, I am not. I’ve moved away from gardening for the most part, I mean, a friend gave me a banana sapling so I put it under a tap in case it’s ever convenient for me to allow it moisture, so I haven’t completely abandoned it. Yes, we’ve come back to tap plants. Oh god, this is painful to admit, I hope no gardeners see this, something might die inside.

I’ve not been deliberate about it, it’s just been a necessity to spend time, whole chunks of time, on other endeavors. My children are growing, and it’s happening like lighting happens, a storm brews, you think something might change and then BAM! lightening crossed the sky and you’re kids ears are bigger, they’ve stripped their clothes off and run through a sprinkler, dashed away again and the next time you make eye contact, really look through them and try to draw out their thoughts, those soggy clothes don’t fit them anymore.

Life has brought new challenges, I am willingly and fully immersing myself in those challenges, and the people they’ve brought into my life. I think when you bring babies into the world it’s just so unbelievable that you try to cage it, you hide from the world for as long as you can possibly get away with it. Slowly and inevitably though, the world lures them back, and you’re compelled to loosen you’re grip. Each finger hesitantly relaxed and then released them until they were free to experience it for themselves. I’m talking about school. They’re at school. I know it’s good for them but I wish everyday that I could drive straight past it, whip off our clothes and go swimming, eat Ice cream, cushion our heads on the grass and watch clouds. I did not make the most of those days, I regret that some.

Now they ask questions I can not answer, they need more than me, they need the village. Perhaps the village also needs them, and I’ve discovered most recently that I wish I’d not shut out the village for so long. The village of course, being the people around you, some of them tip toe in, some of them float straight past, but my favorite are the gluey ones. They walk in without any expectation, check out the menu, find a sunny position and put their feet up. They say “just serve me your best, but if you can’t, dish me whatever you need to get out of your pantry because I’ve decided this is the very spot for me” Isn’t that a champion attitude! I’ve made room in my rib cage for a few of these folks, a couple I’ve traveled with for years and years, and others who’ve found a sunny spot so suitable it just looks as though they’ve been there years and years. Village folk, the wider community, some are only supposed to be in your life for an hour, or just long enough to say something you need to hear, others leave you wondering where indeed they’ve been all you’re life. Life’s weird, people are weird, but people are good. Nourishing, even more so I think than the food we consume, both tangible necessities.

So I’ve been focusing on people, I’ve made them my work by day, and by night, my companions.

Life is full but I’m keeping open to it, it’s a better way to be. There are not going to be any inspirational photos to accompany this ranting I’m afraid mainly because my camera is so dusty I don’t want to disturb it’s slumber. Do you feel as though you’ve just received a bogus and exhausting text from you’re drunk friend? I hope so, I love those.

So, for now, it’s about growing people, noticing it, relishing it, genuinely experiencing it, holding onto it for as long as you can, squeezing hands that find themselves in yours, and not releasing moments until they are fulfilled, knowing it’s slipping, feeling it passing through your fingers but appreciating it’s weight while it’s there.

Bare arsed warm dirt

2 Sep

That’s what we’re waiting for, or at least, that’s what all the old farmers are saying at the moment, resist those basil seedlings poking their juvenile heads out of those tiny pots at all the major supermarkets right now. Unless you’re prepared to bring them home to a mini greenhouse until spring has actually sprung, because they’re bastards! they sell those little babies knowing they’ve little to no chance of becoming a beautiful mature mother plant who’ll one day release her own tiny black seed babies into the soil. sorry, little bit passionate about retailers promising amateur small time gardeners things they can’t keep. Getting back to my obscene title explanation, we are supposed to be regularly exposing our bare arses to our soil at the moment until the day we can comfortably sit there without experiencing any coldness. That is not this day, just tried it. So keep those basil seedlings indoors near the warmest window for now. I haven’t even planted mine yet, I know they only take a few days to sprout once I do, so my babies, generously released from my mother basil last season (which we only pulled out of the ground merely weeks ago) are still wrapped in paper in a glass jar in a cupboard under the sink. Instead I have a couple of rarer hatchlings on my sill, a pretty Red Russian Kale, and Mexican Tarragon. Must ask my darling foodie megamind friend Laura to concoct a recipe incorporating that Mexican Tarragon because trust me on the herbs, this one is amazing!!

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It is incredibly difficult to resist buying everything right now, everytime I step outside I’m immediately taken over by the incredibly sweet jasmine that our neighbour kindly planted all along her border so that I don’t have to, yet still get to benefit from, every spring, it’s the first sign at our place, that it’s really about to happen…eeek… seriously a bit excited.Image

I found out recently, that you can eat Jasmine, that’s a nice bonus! I’m not sure if that means you can ingest it and it won’t harm you in small quantities, or you should eat as much as you can because it’s super nutritional, but honestly, if all it’s good for is that heavenly scent every day for weeks carrying us through until all the other plants realise it’s spring, well, that’s enough. If I remember to use it as a cake decoration, I’m impressed!

There’s so much going on, I simply had to post, because I need to remember this next year, check this out…Image

I know, only a gardener knows the feeling, still, I’m compelled to share, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this bud, we have four grape vines, I’m inspecting them daily because as soon as the first bud arrives it’s game on, like they’re in competition to see which can grow the furthest that year. Just quietly hoping they stretch the entire length of the patio this year, that would be luscious! imagine, sitting outside on a summers evening, sipping iced white wine and plucking handfuls of vine ripened grapes. Image

I bought this white mulberry on impulse one day last year, it’s still neglectfully in it’s black plastic potting bag. I feel like a bad mother, especially since it’s trying so enthusiastically to stretch, grow and even produce at least a punnet full of tiny white mulberries! I’m excited to try one, but I just don’t know where to plant it yet.

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I feel like I’ve been looking at this exact same bud for years, and I kind of have, it’s my mango tree, I say tree, but it’s still only about a metre tall. I complained about it to a fellow gardener recently and she said “well, do you water it?” I looked at her like ‘of course I water it you stupid woman!’ but then I had to honestly think about it, I rarely water it, except in summer, and even then, I sparingly sprinkle it with the same amount I sprinkle all the plants and they all seem happy. so I said “how much water are we talking?” her “a mature tree needs easily 50 litres a day in the summer” ouch! that a lot of water! either we need to be happy with a one metre tree or we divert the kids bath water to the mango bed. Still, despite severe malnutrition and dehydration every year it puts out these pretty buds full of pink tiny flowers and one year we even had a couple of baby mangoes try to grow. I promise to water it this year, terrible, terrible mother.Image

Green furry balls!! you know what they are don’t you, the loquats are exploding this year, the tree received a harsh pruning after last season’s fruit so it’s a very manageable size yet producing twice the amount of fruit of the previous season, so I will need to find ways to use them this year and use them quickly before the birds make a mess of it.

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The pomegranate tree keeps putting out these gorgeous red blossoms, this is the only one at the moment but it looks promising, we removed it’s first two attempts at fruiting because it’s still just a sapling, but since it’s trying so hard, I’m going to let this one go and see if it can ripen. Pretty excited about the promise of future pomegranates!Image

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We’ve finally got around to purchasing fruit fly grade netting for the stone fruit trees, and we’ve seen fruit fly trying to get in unsuccessfully already so we’re hopeful this might be the year we actually get to eat some! It’s amazing how quickly it happens, one day you notice buds on the trees, a few days later they’re exploding with beautiful pink blossom everywhere, a couple of weeks later the petals fall and it’s time to get your nets on, a couple of weeks later you notice little fruit everywhere. It’ll be months before they’re ripe but we’re struggling to contain our excitement imagining plucking ripe blushing nectarine and white peaches direct from the trees and eating them without even washing them right there where they’re growing. I can’t describe what it is about that, maybe it’s primal, maybe it’s the security of being able to nourish yourself on your own land, maybe it’s just because they’re undeniably the sweetest thing spring has to offer! I’m not going to start looking at recipes yet because I’m emotionally reserving myself in case the flies find a way in, but if they make it, I won’t be wasting a single one…. mmm… getting carried away.. I’ll keep you posted on that front.

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Ok, I’m not sure which I’m more excited about at the moment, but I guess I left this one till last which says something doesn’t it. My husband and I accidentally starting weeding yesterday, yes, on fathers day, we’re rediculous, and we noticed that the raspberry bush was somehow spreading? Is that how they grow? It’s seemingly shot runners under the ground and popped up a few inches away from the mother plant. We counted four fresh new strong shoots growing up, amazing! We thought we were lucky to harvest the punnet full we got last summer, but these shoots look promising, I’ll be watching that spot closely.

That’s it for now, remember to keep checking your soil temp! we can compare produce soon 😉 aaaahhhhhh!!!!! too exciting!!!

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Of Bee’s, Blossoms and Goat Bones

28 Jul

I’ve had this sinking feeling lately, that we’ve wasted time. I can hardly remember what happened between January and June this year. When I close my eyes and attempt to retrieve images, glances I’ve saved, the feeling of the tiny hand of my daughters in mine on waking to a bed the kids had crept into in the wee hours, it’s not there. I’ve failed to take enough time to accurately record those precious moments, and in preference to what? being the blithering cleaning, tidying servant mother that is expected of mothers everywhere? Bollocks to that. I decided at the end of June, I would claim as much time as was physically possible, for simply enjoying and recording preciousness. So that’s what we do, and if anything comes up which isn’t very important, we disregard it and continue skipping to our own drum, interrupted only by work commitments (you need to be well funded to get away with the chaos we like to indulge in). We are happy people, we are immeasurably lucky people and we are free. That can’t be said for many many people in this world and I don’t intend to take it for granted. Still, knowing all that, there’s still an occasional sick feeling that bugs me in the night, once the kids are sleeping and I’ve got a cup of tea to help me evaluate the day that’s been, did I do that properly? Did I extract the absolute most I could from that precious day? and the painful answer of course is usually no, there’s always more I could have done, I have found however, that the more time I’ve spent holding the hand of one of my beautiful  children, or with my head tilted onto the shoulder of my husband, those are the days I can almost say yes, yes I think I got the most from that one. I frequently expect too much, so when I could faintly smell anxiety creeping in the other day, I knew it was time to slow it down, still get the most out of the day, but slowly, it was time to cook.

Definitely a day for goat curry practice, a threatening storm has set in, almost immediately after I took most of these photos, thanks obliging weather gods!

During the week I was driving past my local butcher ‘barleyfield beef‘, who happen to be beef farmers, no…. yes!! however, much to their dismay, I usually buy almost everything except beef, cows are not very good for the earth you know. Anyway, driving along and there was a little black board that read ‘goat curry $11.99kg’ and tethered to the board was an actual goat. I felt a bit sorry for the goat (whom I’m informed was not harmed and placed so, only long enough for the comic photo to take place so chill out animal lovers) not sorry enough not to take the opportunity to buy goats meat though! Whoop! spun that little Corolla around and picked me up a kilo, happy days. I really love this butcher, because they are in control of the meat they sell, from the farms they come from to slaughter and owning the shop it’s sold in, I can ask ” what did that steak eat for breakfast last week?” and they tell me. Of course they’re paying me heaps to say this… ha.. joking! but they should shouldn’t they, isn’t that the blogging law, I mention, they pay? I think I’ll mention that on my next meat collection ” Hey, you owe me! I mentioned you on my extremely popular blog and soon your shop will be full of cashed up foodies so pay up! I’m happy to be paid in meat if you prefer” Yeah I think that might fly!

I’ve used a recipe posted in this blog ‘boy meets girl meets food’ Mauritian Goats Curry. I wish I knew how to properly link that for you because it’s an excellent post and my kitchen is smelling rather lovely right now because of it but frankly I simply don’t have time right now to figure that out. So search that heading and you’ll find it.

Here’s how I went..Image

Paste making…

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some lovely chopped goats meat on the bone

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at least half the spice cabinet..Image

toasted spices were apparently supposed to be ground before being added to the cooked paste, however I read fast and regret later so I have whole spices in my curry, whoops.

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So that’s it, in the oven, recipe states 3-4 hours, I read 6 hours so I guess we’ll eat it tomorrow.

While we wait…Image

funghi grows…

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Eggplant flowers open,…oranges beg to be juiced

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Imagepeaches are pollinated

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and I think every colourful weed in the garden has been picked and rushed to my viewing by this amazing little one I made earlier, I’d post her recipe but I’m afraid the ingredients are incredibly rare.

and still the curry is not ready… but the evening is darkening and there’s now chill on the windows so I do believe it’s time to settle in with a well bodied red and wait it out.

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And then, finally, there was curry! I served it atop a mix of jasmine and black wild coconut rice, and with a fresh mint and coconut cream, garnished with lots of coriander and a side of lime pickle. That’s how I like it as I don’t cope with dairy, but if you do, then a fresh mint and yogurt side would be far preferable.

You know when you’ve been cooking all afternoon and your senses are intoxicated with the fumes of strong spices such as star anise, cardamon and cinnamon, then when you finally eat, it’s just good when it should have been great? well, that’s the experience I had. Husband had the ‘can’t talk, eating’ experience which means it’s a winner. If you need to slow things down, I recommend goat!  Tomorrow I’m turning up the heat a little with a spiced cider roasted pork shoulder, Tune in if you feel like it.

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Waiting, for the good things, is always worth it.

Hold your Horses

24 Jul

I’ve not been a dedicated blogger, I picked up the challenge with the same enthusiasm I picked up a packet of cigarettes as a fourteen year old idiot, carelessly. I’ve noticed, thanks to my blogging friend Laura’s mentions, that I seem to have collected a couple of followers? is that the right word? Somehow I feel a tinge of guilt for taking up this nook of cyberspace and knowing that I’ll probably only update it annually for those watching, so here is my annual update. I’ve deliberately slowed our lives down, again, no longer springing out of bed to see how much I can accomplish with each day but rather challenging myself to see how great a quality of experience I can extract from each day. There’s a big difference. We’re neglecting keyboards and taking up spades, we’re leaving mobiles at home and spontaneously trekking out to the zoo on idle Tuesdays, we’re grasping whatever we can, while we can.

We’re still attempting to grow what we can, here’s a little proof..

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Quite looking forward to shredding this up and making some burrito’s! other exciting things growing here…

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Feeling it might be time to dig these beets up, maybe I’ll roast them in a minute to accompany tonight’s lamb shoulder… hmm…

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I decided to randomly plant out rocket and spinach seedlings throughout the garden and just see what survives, there were far too many surviving seedlings to grow in the raised beds so plain old garden space will have to suffice, that odd brown thing in case you wondered, is indeed a dog shit, don’t worry, I’ll wash the rocket before we eat it almost surely, and if I forget, well, it’ll still be safer than eating rocket from a supermarket 😉

Lets see, what else…

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oh… can’t forget, we had a late yet fruitful bounty of heirloom tomatoes this year, just as I thought the heat of summer had completely destroyed my carefully selected plants, new sprouts emerged and a couple of months later we’re eating the most amazing tasting tomatoes for breakfast daily, they are so so different to the water tasting varieties you can buy in supermarkets, this is a terrible representation because we’ve eaten all the ripe ones but I thought I’d toss this photo in for a size guide.

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the best thing happening at our place right now, is all the little promises that spring has grand plans, pomegranate flowering, stone fruits blooming, the sound of plentiful bees pollinating the next seasons produce, I’m excited…. I’m also late for dinner, so on that note, here are my gorgeous white peach and nectarine trees, perhaps over eager for this time of year but there is no better image to feast your eyes on in the depths of winter I think. Enjoy!Image

Promises

28 Nov

Because… our garden right now is full of promises. Instead of posting recently, I’ve been building, planting, sweating, crashing, getting up the next day to do a bit more. Actually, most of the building credit goes to my tireless husband, without him, it would all still be ideas burning my brain. It’s sent us a little bit broke lately, but we are finally looking at a finished landscape, well, it’s built and there are some babies being born out there but theres still alot of room, plenty, it frequently boggles my brain when I imagine all the other trees I must buy to fill it, room.

My perfect number 2 child and I ventured out to tend to it in the few minutes between stormy rain we’re having in Perth today.

The mango, there’s a few of these little mango babies still hanging on, sadly by this stage in the season, if we’re still looking at immature fruit we’ll almost certainly not be eating our own mangoes this year. Shame, but it tried it’s best, and really what can I expect when I leave a juvenile tree in a mountain of sand, yes, just sand, and forget to water it for two years while I go off and bear a couple of babies of my own? no, I’m proud of you little mango, for just staying with us.

 

Rainbow Chard in the nursery, that’s what I’m calling it, because nothing is edible in there yet, just boxes with babies in them, you actually feel as though you should be quiet once you pass into the nursery, actually most everyone else walks in and gets louder with excitement, but I’m quiet, which is quite a feat in any normal circumstance.

Yellow Zucchini, I’m not just stating it’s obvious flower colour, but the promise of what’s to follow, yellow Zucchini’s!

Sweet Basil, planted from seed, and I think it’s a mixed bag in there, they are taking ages to grow because I’ve planted them in a spot they are shaded after 4pm daily, which is a pretty depressing life for basil seedlings, but they’re fighters.

Heirloom tomatoes, also from seeds, also mixed I believe, my goodness, I can hardly contain myself through sheer anticipation.

Finally this year Apples!! There’s quite a few between the two trees which is great because last week I spent $26 on Apples alone, can you believe that? They weren’t even Pink Lady’s like these gorgeous babies.

These have my heart racing, Raspberries, theres a few buds like these on our little plant, I so hope it takes off and goes wild across the back fence.

Hairy Watermelon, shares it’s bed with creeping French Beans, Capsicums, Eggplants, English Spinach and Kent pumpkins. The pumpkins were self seeding from the home made compost and which I constantly discover in random parts of the garden, I dig them up and replant them together in this bed.

My magnificent Olive tree, bursting again with fruit. I’ve shakily decided to try to do something with these this year. Olives though, are not easy to cure. It’s a long tedious process often resulting in bitter unedible fruit that everyone samples with desperately agreeable faces, but only once. I’ve tried it once, it was a despicable waste of time and salt, but I struggle to watch it bear it’s offerings every year, and every year more than the last only to pick the fruit up off the ground and add it to the compost. If any Olive curing genius’ are reading this, please send me your secrets!

Our third attempt at Lemon growing, it should be the easiest fruit to grow in an Australian backyard shouldn’t it. Not in ours unfortunately, for this attempt I’ve bought a Meyer Lemon, apparently much sweeter than your average Lemon, yeilding fruit you can squeeze and drink neat! I can imagine this getting alot of use in winter, or, future winters when it’s actually fruit bearing sized. Right now it’s just a little stick in the ground, but like the Mango, it’s harnessing all it’s reproduction muscles and we’ve got baby Lemons. We’re doubtful they will make it this year, but it’s nice to have a spirited backyard.

I’ve got a real soft spot for this Orange tree, it was one of the first, if not the first, tree that my husband and I bought for this property. Making it the backyard matriarch, she watches all that’s going on in the garden quietly from her corner vantage point. For years she sat in a bunnings plastic bag under the tap so that when we did occasionally remember we owned a plant it was convenient for us to water her. We were young and although prematurely mortgage bound, we were rarely at home to tend to a garden, there were far too many places out there begging for our attendance, and our coin, and we were happy to oblige. Finally we decided to stick the poor thing in the ground when her roots sought refuge between the cracks in the paving she sat on. Today I sit with my daughter underneath her strong heavy burdened limbs and count the second round of fruit in one year while Leah removes snails from the trunk. She’s such a treasure. The tree, and the daughter.

Gnocchi

28 Oct

Gnocchi.

Gnocchi

25 Oct

I’m privileged to have a grandma in my life, albeit the great grandmother of my children and grandmother of my husband, so in essence, I’ve kind of adopted her as my own. Still, with my own grandparents long since passed and sadly missed, it is with great pleasure that we have the awesome nanna Dot to fill the void only a grandma can. Not only does she have the obligatory cookie jar, flowing lemonade and chickens in the backyard, she’s also Italian and a pretty great cook, of course.

Since we first met, I’ve wanted to invite her over to show me how to make Gnocchi, after many years, it’s finally happened! Here are the bits I managed to capture in between having hands too floured to use a camera, flowing red wine and eating the afternoon away.

  So I invited a few foodie mates over to share in the occasion. Nan merrily began to allocate tasks to each of us based on her assessment of our physical capabilities. I quickly became inadequate to mash potatoes and was promptly replaced.

  

So for the sake of a rough style recipe, 2 Kilos of peeled, boiled potatoes squished through a sieve. Keep in mind, 6 adults and 2 kids had this for lunch, and there were 5 zip lock bags of Gnocchi in our freezer at the end of the day. So to make this for just two adults for dinner, I’d say four small potatoes would be heaps.

Use good quality Italian ‘oo’ flour. For our batch we mixed with one kilo to start with and slowly added another kilo in the kneading process, then used almost another half kilo on the bench for rolling and shaping.

                                                                                                                     

We used two whisked eggs for this amount. Cracked into the centre of the potatoes and slowly brought together.

Once a dough is created, you knead it, slowly working the flour and adding a little more flour every so often until it’s not sticking. There’s a perfect firmness, I think too little and you’ll have sticky dough that you can’t work with, too much and you’ll have tough Gnocchi which isn’t a pleasure to eat. I was grateful we had experienced hands to arrive at the perfect point and guarantee first attempt success.

Once you’ve got to this point it should look something like this

We overestimated our batch of dough by about a dozen people, so once we had the dough ready to roll we cut it up into sections and all had a turn rolling it out into snakes. A couple of us thought we mastered this pretty well, still a cheeky nan was in my ear “oh! some fats, some smalls!!” whilst she fixed the fat ones. Bless.

You must understand how critical this is! The size of the cut gnocchi determines how long it needs in the boiling pot, since you remove the whole lot as soon as you start to see a few rising to the surface, if they’re not all the same, then you’ll have some doughy mouthfuls on your plate. Not cool.

Hey! on a side note, heres a photo of my super beautiful daughter extremely serious about measuring her dough snake.

So rolling is serious, so is cutting, make sure they’re all the same, next roll each individual Gnocchi off the end of your finger in the same manner you might aim and fire a stray marble across a dining table at someone you don’t much like. This makes a cute little dented kidney type shape which aids in the harbouring of more sauce, again, this is important!

So that’s it! you got you’re Gnoc!

Sauce of the day was a burnt butter, Sage, Toasted Walnut concoction. 200g of butter melted in a frying pan, toss in a couple of handfuls of chopped walnuts and a small handful of thyme leaves. Once the walnuts are toasted, toss in a handful of sage leaves and wait for them to kind of shrivel up a bit. Once you’re Gnocchi is cooked, toss a good four or so handfuls into your sauce and pan fry until the butter gives you’re Gnocchi a slightly crispy edge. Then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and dish up. I served mine with shaved goats cheese, it was pretty flippin good.

Below is a photo of a basil pesto we also used that day, which was ok, but not as good.

Still, we sat around drinking red wine in the middle of the afternoon and indulging in as much goodness as our bodies allowed us to, the true Italian way.

Thanks Nan!

Photo credit to both my talented friends Alex McKellar and Caryse Collins from Caryse Collins Photography @ http://www.carysecollins.com.au

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