'Eggy bake' is a common meal in our house and one of our all time favourites - named by the kids. Mostly it's just abundant greens from the garden and eggs from their chickens.
|Eggy bake - this version with grated cheese on top from local cheesery. Typically we eat it plain. Rarely we have leftovers.|
Another household favourite is pumpkin soup (veggie soup really) using all freshly harvested vegetables - pumpkin, choko, potato, herbs, turmeric, ginger, garlic chives, mustard spinach and many other veggies and greens we find.
I think our 4yo will discover one day that usually pumpkin soup is orange, not green, but both these meals are great ways to get him to enjoy lots of freshly-plucked organic greens.
|Weeping rosemary hanging over the terrace wall gets plucked for most meals. |
Anyway, I started typing up a recipe for the book I am working on, The Good Life Guide, and realised that this meal was far more than the recipe could communicate. A simplicity of just listing the recipe ingredients and steps seemed somehow to diminish the inherent qualities of the food.
For me it is the rich tapestry of connections that are cultivated through this food that brings it's true quality to light - the connections with the seasons, with our local environment, with the soil, with neighbours, with friends, with each other in our family, with our play, with our home education, and our workplace.
|Tulsi leaves and seeds also end up in most salads, soups, curries and bakes.|
|Garlic chives and their flowers have an amazingly powerful garlic flavour.|
Here is my first attempt to describe the eggy-bake process...
Send the kids up to collect the eggs from the chook house we built using timber our neighbour harvested in his woodlot and a gift of reclaimed iron sheeting. We have an eclectic mix of rare breed chickens that the children look after. The eggs are all different shapes and sizes - but all have superbly orange yolks because they free range often.
Wander around the garden with a handmade basket collecting a wonderful array of herbs, flowers and leafy greens (and purples). I take a leaf from this and a leaf from that so I don’t harm the plant, and can come back again day after day for more. It's a peaceful way to garden and harvest.
I collect things like soft pumpkin leaves and shoots, sweet potato leaves and shoots, mustard spinach, any brassica flowers and soft flower stalks, many varieties of kale, welsh onion leaves, the bolting shoots from coriander/cilantro, tulsi leaves, garlic chives and garlic chive flowers, Brazilian spinach ...there’s so many things to collect, even pea leaves, bean leaves, beetroot leaves, young chia leaves, young amaranth leaves, weeds - chickweed, dandelion leaves. The more diverse the selection, the more diverse the nutrients in the food.
|The magnificent red mustard spinach is making it's way into every meal in these cooler months.|
I love this time in the garden, watching the birds, noticing things - new shoots on trees, self-seeding veggies, subtle changes and simple beauty. I think about what I can add to the garden to increase the diversity or adapt to the changing season.
|Brassica flowers are a wonderful treat. I often snack on them in the garden.|
I notice where I need to add some more compost or mulch. The compost is made from the chicken bedding, and the Azolla we harvested by hand from the lake. The mulch is often chop and drop materials, but we do also go and pick up some local bales of grass straw that another neighbour orders in bulk for us all to use. The kids love to ride in the trailer with the bales slowly back along the little internal road within the ecovillage with the wind in their hair, singing in the breeze, watching for hawks and kangaroos.
I could ask the kids to harvest the greens too because they know where all the great greens are at any moment - the garden is their playground - and sometimes I do, but I just love this time in the garden pottering for a few minutes.
|There's always a surprise somewhere in the garden.|
Ask my children to whiz it all together in the food processor with a bit of fresh milk from the neighbour and handmade ricotta from another neighbour.
Cook it in a solar cooker (for a lunchtime meal) or solar-powered electric oven (for dinner).
Duck out to the garden again just before the eggy bake is ready and collect some salad greens. I like to wrap little bits of eggy bake in a leaf.
|Fresh mixed salad with self-seeding tomatoes and lots of perennial greens, edible weeds and edible flowers.|
Sometimes I go the extra bit and drizzle a salad with a homemade dressing - shaking together a little organic olive oil made just down the valley (sourced from the local organic food store), with some homemade kombucha vinegar (using a SKOBY dropped off by a neighbour, a chopped up garlic clove hand-delivered from a friend in Tasmania (traded for limes), and some herbs and spices from the garden like rosemary, oregano, thyme, or chilli, ginger and lemongrass.
Even simpler, I grab a lime, lemon or grapefruit and squeeze it over the salad. Delicious just like that!
|Fresh greens, snowpeas. tomatoes, citrus and garlic|
Ask the children to set the table. Often they gather a little posy of edible flowers and lemon myrtle leaves and make a beautiful arrangement.
Sit down together and enjoy, discussing the particular flavours and textures that we like in today’s version. You see, they are always different - and that’s the beauty of it too.
It sounds quite complicated, but really it’s ultimately simple. All the ingredients are all just here around us, it’s seasonal, it connects us with our neighbours and friends, and our local environment, we all help to make it happen, we all enjoy it immensely because of the heart and soul that we know has gone into every part. And, from start to finish, cooking from scratch, it usually takes us around 30 minutes to prepare and cook as long as we keep it thin in the glass cooking trays.
|Brazilian Spinach has leaves all year round for harvest.|
This is slow food, but it's not slow, quite rapid actually. With three children - two of them boys with huge appetites - preparing good food quickly seems to be the best approach, as well as getting them involved in the process.
Keep in mind too that I typically garden for about 10 minutes a day to maintain this garden - not a huge commitment, but an enormous benefit to our health and to the education of my children.
Some other reasons I love this way of cooking:
- this is community food
- it's package free - the natural packaging of the eggs go back to the soil. The milk comes in re-used bottles.
- it's part of nutrient cycles in the garden and is waste-free
- it is so satisfying and just makes me smile so deeply when I sit down to share this meal
What's a simple meal you cook from scratch?
What does it mean to you?
Labels: community food, composting, family, food, foraging, gardening, gift economy, happiness, health, herbs, no-dig garden, perennial basil, perennials, permaculture