Autumn Garden

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(this post was written back in April in the throws of busyness and moving - please accept it belatedly)April 15th, 2014 The green summer flush is gone... the leaves begin to curl and brown. The mornings are cooler and the afternoons darker. We stoke the fire on the occasion. We ready the freezer for fresh beef and pork. I remember that Autumn is my favourite season. It is especially wondrous in the garden with return of rain and mild weather. We have had a bountiful harvest of red and green apples, rhubarb, pomegranates, plums, kilos of zucchinis, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin and more tomatoes than we have the time to deal with!

Needless to say the pantry is laden with spaghetti squash, jars of tomato sauce, passata, pickles, stewed plums and apple sauce - and the freezer with zucchini spaghetti, blackberries and basil pesto.

The garden beds are being slowly dug out and replenished with compost. Seeds for english spinach, dill, coriander, beetroot, carrots and radishes have been sowed and are sprouting. The first radishes have been harvested (and devoured with salt and butter).

I have also been busy preparing for the winter garden with trays of seedlings for purple sprouting brocolli, romanesco cauliflower, florence fennel, russian kale, purple and green cabbage, leek, brussels sprouts, celeriac, asian greens, endives, moss curled lettuce plus garlic and walking onion bulbs to sow as soon as possible...

Below is a recipe for a classic French vegetable stew - ratatouille - I have happy memories of eating my mum's version when I was a child. It's so easy to prepare - I use a heavy based cast iron or similar pot on the gas stove though traditional recipes use the oven. I love that it uses so much of the late summer/autumn vegetables and can be frozen or preserved for a quick dinner or pasta sauce at a later date. . . Ratatouille (Eggplant, Tomato, Zucchini + Capsicum Stew)

2 large eggplantssea salt3 zucchinis1 red Capsicum 2 red onions2 garlic cloves500ml crushed tomatoes/tomato passata2 tablespoons mixed herbs dried or fresh (rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano)2 bay leaves2 cups grass-fed beef stockbig handful of parsley (1/2 cup) finely mincedsea salt and pepper to taste

Slice zucchinis lengthwise and sprinkle liberally with sea salt - sit for 30 minutes, rinse with cold water and pat dry. Chop into big pieces. The salt draws "tears" out of the eggplant and reduces the bitterness. Meanwhile slice onions in thin half circles - fry in a heavy based pot with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add sliced capsicum and minced garlic cloves. Cover with a lid and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in eggplant and chopped zucchini. Cover with tomatoes, herbs, stock and bay leaves. Stir and bring to a low simmer for 45 minutes. Add more stock or water if stew is reducing too much. Season with 1/2 cup of finely minced parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy with crusty bread and butter or steamed rice or even creamy mashed potatoes.