Forage, grow, feast

Green Lifestyle magazine

Recipes and thoughts from a simple, self-sustainable foodie.


Tarragon broad beans.


Chargrilled eggplant dip.


Dried walnuts.


Semi-dried tomatoes.


Hot zucchini relish

Whole Larder Love

These recipes are from the book Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson, published by Viking, $29.99.

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Living in a converted old school house in country Victoria, Rohan Anderson of the blog – and now book – Whole Larder Love, is a pillar of self-sustainability and a simple food system. Here he shares some of his recipes and thoughts.

There is a connectivity to this life of ours. I like that it’s complex, that it’s connected and unending, and that all things are linked by some invisible thread. I like that we are flawed, that we can shine, and that we make mistakes. Until I sat down and documented what I was actually doing (in regards to food) I didn’t realise how interconnected my system was. Looking at food on a larger scale is an intimidating task, but breaking it down into little sections makes the idea of it all less daunting. And taking back a little bit of control of where your food is produced makes life tend towards the simple side.

That’s the idea, anyway. Simple doesn’t mean you don’t put in effort or that you just lie back and watch things happen. Simple can sometimes mean more work, more planning, and even more thought put into your philosophy of life. The work comes in the form of getting soil under your fingernails, blood on your shirt, and beads of sweat on your forehead cooking over a hot stove. The planning comes in the form of seasonal preparations and annual events that keep your food stores in check and your vegetable patch happy and productive. And finally, bringing it all together, is your approach to life in general. My philosophy is basic: nature rules supreme. We are only little gears that make the bigger machine do its thing. Although, fools that we are, as a species we often live as though we are the operator of the machine.

Nature is supreme

This is peasant-style cooking, the style I’ve seen Italian nonnas cook with. Nothing is strict – a glug of oil, a bunch of sage, and sprinkle of salt – measurements for me are always approximate. Just use what you think will work, taste it as you work, and especially before you serve it, and adjust as needed. Cooking is like life: it should be free of rules, wild and free, like a naked hippy prancing in a meadow.

This is definitely not fine food, or really fancy in any way. It’s food that anyone can prepare and enjoy, from ingredients that they have raised, grown, hunted, fished, or gathered from the wild. The recipes outlined here and in my book are the ones I like to use when I’m hungry, and I cook with my backyard produce or food I’ve foraged for. If you don’t have this option, then try to buy local as much as possible. This approach to food should by no means prevent you from venturing out for dinner, ordering takeaway sushi, or devouring a burger.
It’s simply about balance. Eat more of the things you produce, less of the things you don’t. Ask where your food comes from - don’t be shy. If you have space, then I urge you to grow, and grow like crazy. I bet you will enjoy the food and lifestyle so much that you’ll wonder why you haven’t always lived this way!

The seasons of produce

I view the garden in seasons. Tomato, zucchini, borlotti beans, and squash immediately make me think of hot summer nights puttering in the garden with a cold beer reward just around the corner. They’re the kind of summer vegetables that provide me with speedy “watch-and-grow” development. Kale, spinach, broad beans, and sprouting broccoli get me thinking of winter, when everything slows right down and anything fresh is very welcome.

Despite what most people think, maintaining a little veg patch is not hard work. The idea is to keep it simple. Start with only one or two vegetables in your first season, then build up the range from there. This approach allows you to pay more attention to your plants initially without becoming bewildered by too much too soon. These few plants will get plenty of attention, just like a new romance, and will reward you with a good harvest of fruit. The following year you’ll be gagging to set up a bigger crop.

The taste of the first tomato of the new season is best described as either spiritual or orgasmic. One of my most anticipated moments of the year is the first tomato on toast with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Quiver. Tomatoes are an excellent proving ground for any budding gardener; they’re pretty hardy and produce the most amazing variation of flavours. They also grow well in pots, and if you use a decent potting mix and keep the water up in summer they make an excellent option for apartment balconies or rooftops.

Tarragon Broad Beans

Each winter it’s advisable to plant a green mulch crop like mustard or broad beans, which, as a bi−product of their growth, replenish the nitrogen levels of the soil. For years I’d been growing the beans and then digging them into the soil as green mulch about a month prior to planting tomatoes. But then after some encouragement from a Polish friend, I started eating them in various recipes. Lo and behold, I no longer viewed them as just another green mulch.

This is a summer treat, a simple tapa, something to be shared on the table or used as a side bean salad.

1 large handful fresh broad beans
1 lemon
1 small bunch fresh tarragon
Parmesan cheese
Olive oil, salt and pepper

- Remove the beans from the pods, and blanch in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Drain and allow to cool.
- While the beans are cooling, shave some good quality parmesan cheese.
- Finely chop the tarragon. Set aside.
- Place the beans in a mixing bowl, grate over the rind of the lemon, and then squeeze the lemon juice in.
- Add the tarragon, dress with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and when plating up, garnish with a healthy serving of the parmesan cheese.

Chargrilled Eggplant Dip

Eggplant is one of my favourite summer vegetables to grow. It’s a lot like zucchini in that once the warm weather arrives it really gets a wriggle on. There is a great range of eggplant varieties from short stumpy ones to long and slender and even zebra striped (which starts to sound like a range of adult toys).

Chargrilling eggplant brings out that great smoky roasted flavour, and grilled eggplant on its own is perfect with some feta, marinated capsicum, and fried mushroom all toasted between a couple slices of focaccia. But this recipe takes it one step further, making it into a dip that is a real treat on toasted ciabatta or with water crackers.

2 eggplant
1 fresh chilli (deseeded)
5 cloves garlic
100 g feta cheese
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp tahini
1 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 tsp cumin
Olive oil, salt and pepper

- Slice the eggplant lengthways (skin on) and place on a tray. Finely chop the fresh parsley, chilli, and the garlic.
- Sprinkle each layer of sliced eggplant with some salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
- Use either a BBQ grill or a griddle pan to grill the eggplant until soft.
- Place all the grilled eggplant into a food processor and whiz well. Add the feta, tahini, chopped parsley, garlic, red wine vinegar, and chilli, and season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Walnut Farfelle

Walk down an urban backstreet, into a park, through paddocks, or down country lanes and there’s a high probability you are walking past free food. I have a mental picture of where all my good foraging spots are; I’m a walking GPS unit. The forager’s code is never tell anyone your good spots. I’m happy to share, as long as I know where you live. It’s an I−can−tell−you−but−then−I’d−have−to−kill−you kind of thing.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know my local haunts fairly well. If you asked (and as I explained, it’s polite not to) I could tell you where there is a fig tree hanging over a neighborhood fence; a patch of nettle; an infestation of sweet blackberries; a dark forest valley laden with mushrooms; and the highly coveted location of mature walnut trees. It is highly coveted because walnut trees take a very long time to mature and become prolific producers of nuts. If keen foragers know its location, it’s sure to get a good hammering. Each year rain, hail, or snow, I’ll drag the kids out with buckets and collect the fallen nuts at one of our spots. Luckily for us there is a playground nearby where the kids retire after five minutes of collecting. I don’t mind. We usually make a game of who can collect the most in the least amount of time. Because the nuts have been out in the elements, we normally place them in the room with the fireplace, on the mantle, or on trays on the floor for at least a week to dry them out.

If I actually had the patience for baking I’d probably be making cakes, slices, and cookies. But the way to treat these beautiful nuts with the utmost respect is by making a pesto.

500 g farfalle
1 cup foraged walnuts (free just tastes better)
Large bunch fresh basil
1 ½ cups parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup olive oil

Warning: This meal may contain traces of nuts.

- Crack the nuts open, remove the good bits, discard the shells.
- Using a food processor mash the nuts to a fine consistency then set aside in a bowl.
- Place fresh basil in the processor and whiz it up fine, then return the processed nuts and grated parmesan.
- Mix on a slow setting, while drizzling the olive oil into the processor.
- Cook the farfalle al dente. When cooked and drained, return it to the pot it was cooked in and stir in the pesto. Mix well.
- Serve with a good grate of parmesan cheese, a dressing of olive oil, and cracked salt and pepper.

Semi-dried tomatoes

At the peak of summer, tomatoes are just starting to ripen. You’ll devour them in salads, as bruschetta, roasted, and as sauce. One other way to harness that summer goodness is to ‘sun dry’ your excess tomatoes. Now, if you live in sunny areas you could lay sliced tomatoes on trays in the hot dry sun turning them occasionally to get that beautiful dry sweetness. Well I live in a cool climate so I cheat. It’s a very simple process; all you need is tomatoes and an oven. No fancy dehydrating gear, no warm climate. Just an oven and a bucketload of ripe tomatoes.

I use these sweet beauties cooking with a hot kasundi sauce, in salads, or just as tapas. If you let some burn just a little, they caramelise. And they taste amazing after their flavour is concentrated by storing them jarred in olive oil.

Ripe tomatoes
Olive oil

- Slice the tomatoes lengthwise into 4-6 slices (depending on the size of the tomatoes). Don’t worry about the seeds, if some fall out, no matter.
- Take the tray grills out from the oven and preheat the oven to the lowest setting. For my oven it’s 60°C, convection.
- Here’s the trick. Jam a pencil in the door so the oven isn’t sealed. Lay the sliced tomatoes directly on the wire racks and return to the low-heat, semi-opened oven and roast until they shrivel up and some even char a little. This should only take around an hour, but check on them regularly.
- Allow to cool. Transfer the tomatoes into sterilised jars and fill with olive oil ensuring all tomatoes are covered. Allow oil to sink and fill into all the cracks between the tomatoes and top up if necessary as any tomatoes exposed may spoil.

Hot Zucchini Relish

Near the end of summer, I often tell myself I must plant less zucchini next year, but when the time comes I always seem to plant more. Zucchini is a wonderful vegetable to grow, as it doesn’t require much work, the seeds are easy to raise, and the zucchini itself tastes great in so many forms. You can even eat the flowers stuffed and fried in batter. When you have a glut of this lovely vegetable, or just want something to top your hot dog, burger, or toasted sandwich, then this is perfect. A good mix of sweet, sour and heat.

These measurements are a base. If you have double the amount of zucchini then double the amount of everything. Savvy?

6 cups zucchini, chopped (any variety, hopefully home grown)
2 onions
3 fresh chillies
½ green capsicum
½ red capsicum
½ yellow capsicum
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp paprika
2 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
Olive oil

- Chop the vegetables (somewhere between rough
and fine).
- Place the vegies (except for the chilli) in a large mixing bowl and cover with salt. Mix well and let it sit overnight.
- In the morning, drain the liquid that has formed from the bowl. Don’t drink it.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add the drained vegetables and cook stirring often for at least 10 minutes. This process will soften the veg.
- When the veg is cooked through, add the sugar, vinegar, spices, and finely chopped chilli. Stir well and
simmer for 30 minutes.
- Decant in to sterilised jars and label “See, I Can Make Relish.”

These recipes are from the book Whole Larder Love by Rohan Anderson, published by Viking, $29.99