April 7th, 2015
We grow quite a number of olive cultivars, some we use for pickling, and the rest we use to make our extra virgin olive oil. In the garden we have Mission, Delicata and Frantoio olives, and on the farm Hannes also grows Leccino, Don Carlo, FS17 and Coratina – all cultivars best suited for pressing olive oil. Black Calamata and green Nocellara olives are ideal for table use, and we pickle them in the cellar for almost a year before they are ready.
Here’s a recipe from our cookbook, Babel, for a decadent dark chocolate terrine using pitted black olives.
LAYER 1: CAKE: In a double boiler melt 250g white chocolate. Remove from heat. Whisk 200g soft butter into the chocolate. Cream 160g eggs and 210g caster sugar. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture. Fold in 100g of sifted flour. Spread on a baking tray lined with greased baking paper and bake for 10 minutes at 180° C. Allow to cool. Line a bread tin with cling film and cut the cake to fit the base of the tin. Place in freezer.
LAYER 2: DARK CHOCOLATE AND WALNUT GANACHE In a double boiler melt 250g dark chocolate and 125g unsalted butter. Combine
and remove from heat. Add 60g cream and 200g toasted walnuts. Allow to cool and spread over the cake layer and place bread
tin back into freezer.
LAYER 3: WHITE CHOCOLATE AND OLIVE GANACHE In a double boiler melt 250g white chocolate and 125g unsalted butter. Combine
and remove from heat. Add 60g cream and 200g pitted black olives. Spread onto dark chocolate ganache and place bread tin
back into freezer.
LAYER 4: DARK CHOCOLATE In a double boiler, melt 175g chocolate and 110g unsalted butter, combine and remove from heat. Whisk in 4 egg yolks. In a separate bowl whisk 2 egg whites and 15ml sugar. Fold into egg mixture and dust in 150ml icing sugar and 40ml cocoa powder. Add 70ml double cream. Spread over white chocolate and cover with clingfilm. Place tin back into the freezer. ◗ When ready to use take the tin out of the freezer and remove terrine from tin. Take off the cling film. Using a warm, clean knife, slice a 1cm slice and place on serving platter. Allow to thaw for 10 minutes before serving topped with toasted walnuts and a shot of espresso. Cut as many slices as you need. Wrap the remaining chocolate terrine with clingfilm and place back into the tin to freeze again until needed.
The fruit from the wild olive tree, or Olienhout olives, make a beautiful edible garnish. They have a sweet or sour taste.
April 2nd, 2015
We are trialling the no-dig method in our garden’s veggie block. It all started with a visit from organic veggie producer, Tia Cusden, who grows a variety of delicious salad leaves in Somerset, England.
Tia explains: “Although it might seem counterintuitive to many gardeners, not digging echoes nature, where the soil structure is left undisturbed. New organic matter, like fallen leaves and dead plants, are left on the surface of the soil – this is then pulled down into the soil by earthworms, aerating as they go.
There’s science behind this madness, as most microbial activity takes place in the top layer of soil, where a delicate network of mycorrhizea convey nutrients to plants over considerable distances. To interfere in this process with man made spades and ploughs knocks the wellbeing of the soil, which then needs time to recover its balance”.
Provided that you start with clean soil, the advantages of using a no-dig method includes less weeding, less maintenance and better water retention.
Here’s how we did it:
- To get rid of as many weed seeds possible, we removed the top layer of soil (about 15cm) from our old vegetable bed.
- The bed was then dug over only once, to create good drainage. This step is only required if the soil structure is poor, or if the soil has been compacted by machinery, as was the case with ours.
- A plan of the block was marked out on the ground, dividing the large area into smaller beds, and leaving footpaths of about 50cm wide for access. The beds are no wider than 120cm, which makes them easy to work without stepping into and in the process compacting the soil.
- The beds were then filled 15-20cm high with a mixture of loamy topsoil and well matured compost, creating raised beds.
- Summer plantings followed with different combinations to allow future rotation. Our no-dig veggie patch includes these companions : chilli with parsley, eggplant with basil, sunflowers with okra, beetroot with beans, cabbages with leeks, as well as a variety of salad leaves and peanuts. Winter combinations include parsnips with leeks; kale, celery, fennel with calendula flowers; fava beans with turnips and peas with radishes
After this initial soil preparation, the no-dig beds will never be dug over again. We’ll simply add organic matter on top of the beds annually, or as required – leaving it to our earthworm friends to do the digging.
Tia will visit us again this November to host a Summer Salad workshop. For bookings phone 084 275 1243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 19th, 2015
It only took a short while for the pumpkin seeds, planted late last year, to grow into delicious plump, pumpkins. For months the garden team kept a watchful eye on the pumpkin patch, enriching the soil with organic feed, protecting them from fruit flies, sneaky squirrels and fungus. And at night our nocturnal friend, the barn owl, kept the opportunistic mice at bay.
The vigilance of our gardeners paid off, and as the rambling stems of the pumpkins dry at summer’s end, we are now cutting and harvesting the ripe pumpkins. This year however, it was the children who came to play even before the chefs had a turn to trick pumpkins into Babel treats.
With a hop, skip and jump we went over the enormous Atlantic Giant pumpkin into The Snail, covered with climbing calabashes and gourds, for an exciting treasure hunt. As we walked through the belly of The Puff Adder, children of all ages learnt about the different varieties of pumpkins: Turks Turban, Flat White Boerpampoen, deep orange Cinderella, delicious Golden Hubbard Squash, Speckled Swan, best-to-eat Muscat and the Halloween. With the help of their parents, children cut, scooped, hammered and hugged their pumpkins into shape until sunset. Exhausted, hungry and proud we finished the evening with candle lights, pizza and pumpkin ice cream.
March 4th, 2015
The bountiful late-summer produce from the farm includes a Babylonstoren favourite….prickly pears in all colours. Delicious, versatile and easy to grow from a single leaf (with good selection and tight control), the prickly pear promises to be back on the foodie scene.
Prickly pears have such a rich past in South Africa, that they are considered by many as “South African”, but in fact the prickly pear (or cactus pear) hails from Mexico and Central America, and was brought to our southern shores in the late 1700’s.
Apart from the prickly pears in our garden’s famed prickly pear maize, we have no less than 11 varieties of Opuntia ficus- indica growing on the farm, and they are in season now! This “cinderella” of the fruit community has countless uses; we’re also trying our hand at ink-making, using the deep purple-coloured fruits of Opuntia robusta from the garden.
Hannes, our farmer, invented this handy contraption to harvest the prickly pear. But the old-fashioned way of harvesting, with a tin attached to a stick, still proves to be the most effective for those hard-to-reach delicacies.
Tip: Get rid of most of the spines, by rubbing the skin of the prickly pear with newspaper, alternatively use protective gloves when working with this cheeky fruit.
Just some of the varieties that are fruiting now, and the chefs, farmers, and garden team are in agreement that the “Messina” and “Zastron” variety has the best flavour, whilst the “Meyers” variety has the most beautiful colour – a vibrant, hot pink!
How to peel a prickly pear:
- Stick the fork in the side of the prickly pear.
- Cut off each of the thorny ends and discard.
- Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear. You need to cut through the skin of the prickly pear and not into the flesh of the fruit.
- Peel the skin off the fruit using the knife and fork.
- Place the peeled fruit in the fridge and enjoy a few hours later, ice cold!