The Good Life in Summer by Ami Hillege

This is the time of year when the preparations of spring are finally rewarding us with the bounty we will enjoy for many months. The thrill of gathering food from our kitchen garden, a few steps from the kitchen, is one that we do not tire of.

It is late afternoon and I make a visit to the vegetable garden with a basket to gather the makings for a summer evening meal. The strawberries have been plumping up, turning from pale pink to a glossy deep red. I lift the leaves and find the hidden gems resting on the straw mulch. I pull a piece of fruit still warm from the sun gently from the stem and pop it into my mouth. The aroma of the fruit hits me.  The taste is an explosion of strawberry!

We have friends coming over for dinner and we’ll serve an aperitif as we sit around the fire pit, waiting for the coals to mature to glowing orange balls, ready to receive the meat.  I gather handfuls of herbs; coriander, dill, parsley, mint and parsley. These delicate greens will be eaten with a slice of freshly baked bread and a smear of local goats’ cheese.  I grab a jar of marinating olives from the pantry. Last autumn I harvested a whopping 1400g, brined them and waited till they were ‘just right’. I rinsed and dried them, then added fresh garlic, rosemary, chili and olive oil to the salted fruit and put them away to mature. The only thing we need to add to our appetiser is an accompanying drink. We have a choice; apple cider bottled from the apples in our orchard months before, or a little orange wine made with oranges from a neighbour topped off with sparkling mineral water.

Dinner will be a simple affair. The beef we will eat was raised in the paddock behind the house. Farm sausages and steak will be served with local spuds roasted in foil. A jar of rhubarb and date chutney will be popped open to dollop onto the side of a plate.  A piece of sausage smeared through the goopy preserve packs a sweet punch with a hint of spice. Salad from the garden rounds out the main meal offering. The salad is green. It will be a few weeks yet before we pick our ripe tomatoes. The strawberries will be poached in a little Muscat syrup and a generous drizzle of cream. And that’s dessert done and dusted.

It has taken a while for us to arrive at this point of feeding ourselves from produce grown by our own hands. We’ve made many mistakes, hits and misses in the food garden. The most interesting and exciting aspect of feeding ourselves has been to eat seasonally. In a time before our journey in country began, no salad was complete without a tomato. Now we wait and anticipate the beginning of the tomato season.  We have a whole new menu to be explored when autumn arrives. But for now, we’re loving the good life that Summer is gifting us.

Photo credit:  Tammy Brown Colac Herald





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