Saturday, 29 March 2014

Cockles on the Menu

Talking about our Seaside Harvests suggests to me that I should show how we use tham and share the recipes that they inspire. To that end I offer you a celebration of Cockles.

These meaty little bivalves, also known as vongole or baby clams, are common to sheltered sandy beaches and are often raked by foragers, however we have simply sorted through the sand with our toes and collected by hand and found enoug to satisfy our menu on the day.

Preparing the meats

Cockle meats

Bay fresh forraged cockles need to be scrubbed clean with a wire brush and purged in salted clean water and a handful of rolled oats for several hours. rinsed well and refridgerated overnight to ensure cleanliness. Steam in white wine, a splash of water and some garlic for 5-6 minutes. Open the cockles and remove the meat then gently rinse to remove any residual grit

The first step to enjoying cockles is to scrub them with a wire brush, remove the beard and then allow them to purge in fresh clean salted water and a andful of rolled oats for several hours. A jiggle now and then will help dislidge some of the grit and sand from within the shell.

Heat a large pan with some freshly minced garlic and a knob of butter until it begins to sizzle. Drop the cockles whole into the pan and then add a cup of water to boiling and a cup of white wine .... allow the shells to open and they are done. Not all shells will open, but as we have collected them fresh from the Bay we are confident they are ok to eat.

Drain and rinse well until cool enough to handle and using an oyster knife for the more stubborn open them and scoop out the meats.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per 100 grams
Calories 79
                                             % Daily Value
 Total Fat 0.7 g         1%
 Total Carbohydrate 4.7 g         1%
 Protein 14 g       28%

Calcium                3%

 Iron                                      90%


Potted Cockles


Potted Cockles


  • 1 cup cockle meat, roughly chopped
  • 125 g butter
  • 2 x fresh bay leaves
  • 2 pinches nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 2 pinches paprika
  • 3 x slices wholemeal spelt sour dough, toasted
  • 1 Tbls tartare sauce, homemade if possible
  • 2 x wedges lime
  • 1 bunch garden fresh salad leaves of your choice



melt your butter in a pan with the bay leaves and spices and heat gently until it clarifies. Strain out the bay and leave the milk solids behind.
Place your cockle meat in a ramekin and press firmly and pour the spiced clarified butter reserving a small portion. place the ramekin in the fridge to set the pot. Once set, reheat the reserved clarified butter and pour on top to assure all meat is completely covered as some may float on the first pour. Return to the fridge to set completely.

Serve with toasted sour dough, lime wedges, salad and tartare sauce.

Perfect for a picnic

Battered Cockles

This recipe was especially a hit with the youngest who loves anything battered and deep fried. 


Battered Cockle
  • 2 tbs corn flour extra
  • 1 cup cockle meats 
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 2 tbs wholemeal spelt flour
  • 10 cockles
  • pinch salt
  • 40 ml soda water
  • oil for deep frying



Dredge the meats in extra corn flour
make the batter by blending the corn flour, spelt flour and salt then whisk in soda water
bring the frying oil up to temp. Dip each meat into the batter and deep fry until golden, drain on paper towel and serve 

Serves 1 snackish boy with a sprinkle of salt
or as an entree with tartare sauce

Cockle Butter
Cockle Butter


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup cockle meats


Dice up the meat roughly and mix into the butter thoughougly shape into a log and roll up in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge to harden

Cockle Butter Ravioli

ravioli construction


  • 1 portion of cockle butter (see above)
  • 1 cup cockle meats
  • 375g plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs beaten with a fork
  • Roasted tomato pasta sauce

Cockle butter ravioli


Sift flours onto a bench, form into a ring and pour well beaten eggs into the centre of the ring. gently stir the flour into the centre with the fingertips, mixing the flour well through until it all comes into a well mixed ball. cut the ball into 4 and wrap in individual pieces of plastic wrap, rest for 10 minutes.

Roll out the pasta to fit into the pasta machine and make long 2ml think lasagna sheets and place teaspoon sized pieces of cockle butter at regular intevals to make te required sized ravioli. Cut and fold the ravioli and press with a ravioli press into shape.

Drop the completed ravioli into rapidly boiling salted water.
When they rise to the top of the water scoop them out and drain. Serve with well heated roasted tomato pasta sauce, we roasted our own tomatos, onions, garlic and herbs and made our own.


Mythology and Cultural Significance 

The cockle-shell was sacred to Aphrodite, who was often depicted emerging from one in her birth scene. The half opened shell represented a woman's genitalia. Shellfish were regarded as sacred to the goddess Aphrodite and were so regarded as aphrodisiacs.

Cockle bread was a bread baked by English women in the seventeenth century which was supposed to act as a love charm or aphrodisiac. The dough was kneaded and pressed against the woman's vulva and then baked. This bread was then given to the object of the baker's affections.

The Haida peoples have legends of Raven and in one he released the first humans from a cockle shell on the beach.

A traditional food for many a coastal and delta Peoples. This shellfish has been used for food, ornamentation and currency as far back as 3000BC in Mesopotamia. Prehistoric graves in Lincolnshire, England were found full of cockle shells suggesting they were symbols of death and rebirth. When two shells are together they resemble a heart shape and are often called heart clams. Eating them is said to be good for the heart and ancient traditional medicines used them accordingly to improve heart function.

As an element of Magick cockles are associated with balance, contentment, love, the dawn and a gateway to a new life. They are good for centering, calming personal energy and represent new beginnings.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Seaside Harvests

Exploring our environment and finding forage bounty at every turn is a significant joy. I never fail to feel blessed by the coastal and rural offerings that can be found, feasts for the eyes, bursts of activity, tranquil moments, skillful pursuits and sheer delight in our surroundings.
Foraging and finding wild foods is an integral part of how we chose to live as Locavores. So far we have availed ourselves of some pretty amazing ingredients freely available allowing for regulations and lawful procurement of course. Always ensure you have the right advice and the full knowledge of licensing requirements, sanctuaries, bag limits, size limits and protected species before you start out and if in doubt ... don't take it.

Our Foraged and Fished Species to date

Dusky flatead


Our first seafood harvest was a dusky flathead that was a complete and utter shock and awe moment for us all. I don't think you can go fishing expecting to catch anything and then when something this amount of awesome comes your way it always excites the fisherman. Fisheries NSW have limits on flathead such that minimum length is 36cm, with only 1 over 70cm allowed in a bag limit of 10. This one was 75cm and we only caught the one. Filleted, battered and deep fried a tasty treat for the family.

Sea Urchin

A favourite occupation and source of exercise and fun is scampering over the twisted and overturned rock strata that forms so much of our local coastline and spying the creatures that call it home. One such foray lead us straight to the crevasses that housed plump and spiny sea urchin. Returning home with all the thoughts of harvesting them lead us on a merry internet chase of what to do with a sea urchin.

Sea urchin
sea urchin roe

You Tube furnished us with many amusing How To's for opening and cleaning these gourmet creatures where the roe is the prized bounty from within a tough shell.
There is no size limit for sea urchin with a bag limit of 10 creatures each fisher.

We have included our sea urchin roe, or uni, in many a culinary adventure such as sushi, creamy pasta sauces and uni butter.



Snorkeling extended our forage range into the pristine waters around us and opened up a world of visual delight. This healthful pursuit with full body resistance workout included allowed us access to abalone as well as glimpses of crayfish and schools of trevally to encourage greater forays into our watery neighbourhood. With Fisheries NSW limits of minimum size 11.7cm with a bag limit of 2 each it still became a substantial meal component to sashimi, fried rice, BBQs or simply fried in garlic butter.


Our beautiful shallow draft bay is full of oft neglected seafoods and with reference to our Mediterranean culinary experiences we were delighted to find cockles in vast numbers. These baby clams, or vongole, are plump and very tasty and easily found their way onto our menu.

Cockle meats
We have never managed to take the whole Fisheries NSW bag limit of 50 clams each and only take as many as the night's menu requires.

Pasta fillings, potted clams, meaty sauces and smoked in salads are all ways we have served these wonderful seafood.

Potato cod

Some of the creatures we have caught or foraged for are not pretty, but awesome food is out there for the looking. Less known species that don't fulfil commercial needs and market quantity are none the less truly tasty and worth considering for our plates. Taking the initiative to make use of less commercial species takes the pressure off the fish stocks of these species and as long as we fish responsibly and within limits set out by our legislated bodies and only take what we need we can be a part of a thriving ecology and economy.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta,  Cucurbita maxima or Cucurbita moschata 

pumpkins on the vine
Winter is around the corner and my mind turns to the comfort and warmth inducing pursuits. When the  threat of frost is soon to be in the air my first thought is pumpkin harvesting. A staple for winter feasting but we needs must prepare for our bounty at our earliest spring convenience.

A feral upstart from amidst the compost in the perennial food forest become one of the most giving and bounteous harvests of the year. A gift of serendipity that needed little care or consideration and yet still gave most effortlessly to our Autumn and Winter table. When growing pumpkin on purpose it is still a very easy task. In a well drained position with well turned soil incorporating a lot of organic composted material simply sow the seed to a depth 3 times the length of the seed itself. A plant spacing of 1m is a good guide and a good place to have them sprawling is from within a stand of corn. Our feral pumpkin had no special consideration other than a mulch of sugar cane and an occasion top dress of bunny poo as well as a good watering in the evening if the leaves appeared droopy during a hot day.

pumpkin flower
It is good to note that this precocious flowerer is essentially bi-sexual and you will see two very different flower bases. The male flower will have no fruiting bulb at it’s base whereas the female flower will form a fruiting body below the flower. If you notice these fruiting bodies going yellow without swelling and then dropping off you may well have to opportune your plant of a bit of sexual therapy. Simply get a cotton bud and wipe it on the stamens of the male flower and gently transfer some pollen to the female stigma which is especially sticky for this very purpose.

Generally a single plant will support up to 8-12 pumpkins.

Now it is time to be impressed with those swelling fruits and avail yourself of another crop little known or appreciated! Pumpkin leaves!

A moment of sheer joy it was when I found out that my hairy plate sized pumpkin leaves were not just nutritious, but entirely delicious and known in Zimbabwe as muboora. The only trick is to pick them bright green, young, tender and about the size of a bread and butter plate. Little preparation is required other than a good rinse to remove anything from the protective hairs.

I might even be so bold as to suggest we eat the male flowers once we have used them sexually and I will share a few of my favourite recipes for you to do so.

Tempura Squash Flowers

Tempura squash flowers

  • 8 x squash (pumpkin or zucchini) flowers
  • 200 g soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 x lemon rind finely grated
  • 5 x sage leaves finely shredded
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup pear cider
  • 8 x sage flowers
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a bowl mash the goat cheese and mix in the shredded sage, lemon rind a pinch of salt
Gently place an 1/8th of the mixture into the inside of each of the zucchini flowers and gently press the flower into shape and place into the fridge to set.
Heat your oil so that a crumb of bread sizzles the instant it hits the oil.
Whisk the pear cider into the rice flour and season with the other pinch of salt. Retrieve the flowers from the fridge and one by one coat them with the batter and plunge into the hot oil. Allow to sizzle for a minute and flip over for even colour and remove using a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain excess oil. Quickly dip each of the sage flowers into the batter and deep fry and drain.
Serve each zucchini flower with a sage flower and gently seasoned as a side or as a delicious entrée.

pumpkin pesto

Pumpkin Pesto

  • 10 x pumpkin leaves, tender young no bigger than a entree plate
  • 6 sprigs basil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernels, lightly toasted
  • 2 pinches salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, cold pressed
  • 1 x lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic
Pumpkin pasty
Roughly chop the leaves and garlic and place all ingredients into a processor except the parmesan and pulse until not quite smooth. Turn out into a bowl and stir through the parmesan. Adjust the seasoning and serve with wafers, crudités, small salad leaves or stirred through pasta … the possibilities are endless

I made a batch into pesto mini pasties with a wholemeal spelt sourdough pastry as an entree.

Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin risotto
  • 2 cups pumpkin chunks
  • 4 x celery stalks
  • 1 tspn vegetable stock powder
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely diced
  • 2 x onions, finely sliced
  • 2 x bacon rashers, finely sliced
  • 2 x chilli, mild green finely diced
  • 2 tspn extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbls butter
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 cups pumpkin flesh, cubed and roasted for 20mins
  • 1 cup pumpkin flesh, cubed
  • 1 cup fennel, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 x pumpkin leaves, tender young no bigger than a entree plate, shredded
  • 5 sprigs basil, finely shredded
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Process the pumpkin chunks and celery through a juicer and make the resulting juice up to 500ml with water and add the stock powder and stir.
Boil the cup each of pumpkin flesh and fennel in 1/2 cup water until tender and the stock reduced. Allow to cool and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Sweat the garlic, onion and chilli gently in the oil and butter with the bacon and gently cook out the bacon fat.
Add the rice and gently cook stirring until the rice becomes translucent.
Slowly introduce the juice stock and stir until completely absorbed, this should take 20 minutes to complete. Add the puree and allow that to be absorbed while stirring. Add the roasted pumpkin and allow the risotto to begin to slightly catch to the bottom of the pan.
Add the finely shredded greens and parmesan and stir off the heat, season and serve.
Garnish with shreds of parmesan and garden fresh herbs.

Stuffed Golden Nugget Pumpkin

  • 4 golden nugget pumpkin (one each serve)
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked to instructions
  • 6 pumpkin leaves, finely shredded
  • 4 baby fennel finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 2 tspn vegetable stock powder
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tbsp butter

Remove a neat cap from the top of each pumpkin and open them to the seed center reserving any tender flesh and the cap. Scoop out the seeds and seed baring pulp.
mix all other ingredients and fill each pumpkin cavity tightly.
place the cap back over the pumpkin and place them all in a deep dish with 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan.
Bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer can pass easily through the center of the pumpkin.

Serve as a side

Nutritional Rundown

As a fruit that can be known as the largest in the world you can tell by its bright colour that it’s going to be going to be good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.

Pumpkin fruit

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 246%
Vitamin-C 15%
Potassium  9%
Vitamin-E 7%
Calcium 2%
Vitamin B-6 5%
Iron 4%
Magnesium 3%
Antioxidants: carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes
B-complex: Folates, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin & Thiamin
Minerals: copper, calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, selenium & zinc
Poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds: α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.

pumpkin leaves

Pumpkin Leaves

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 17%
Vitamin-C 7%
Manganese 7%
potassium 5%
Calcium 2%
Vitamin B-6 4%
Iron 5%
B-complex: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate
Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Amino-acids: Arginine, Cystine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Tyrosine & Valine

Pumpkin Flowers

Nutrient RDI/100gm
vitamin-A 46%
Vitamin-C 11%
Folate 14%
Magnesium 8%
Calcium 5%
Vitamin B-6 3%
Iron 7%
B-complex: Vitamin B6 & Folate
Minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus and Potassium, Iron, Magnesium and Copper.

Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)

Nutrient RDI/33gm
Manganese 74%
Tryptophan 53%
Phosphorus 40%
Magnesium 48%
Copper 22%
Zinc 17%
Iron 1%
B-complex: Vitamin B6
Antioxidents: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, gamma-tocomonoenol, phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid; and the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol
Minerals: phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and copper..

Cultural Significance

A pumpkin pie might very well be perfect Sam­hain fare and we have long been acquainted with the carving of squashes and gourds to celebrate harvest and bounty as harkens back to ancient Celtic tradition.

Traditionally, pumpkin was used for treating type 2 diabetes in Mexico where the traditional healers administered crude extract of the pumpkin fruit to the patients.
There is some evidence that diets high in pumpkin seeds showed lower risk of gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancers as well as prostate cancer and benign tumours.
Use of pumpkin seed for treatment of tapeworms and other intestinal parasite date back many years and in China pumpkin seeds were used to be treat people with acute schistosomiasis, a severe parasitic disease that is transmitted through snails. Proteins and oil extracted from pumpkin seeds inhibit growth of wide range of bacteria, fungi and yeast.

Furthermore pumpkin seeds have positive influence in cases of depression, kidney stones, inflammatory disease and bacterial infection.

pumpkin and fennel soup
The pumpkin is a symbol of magick, the unknown and the mysterious. It’s orange colour and exotic flavour and scent may be associated with the Fire element and placing a small pumpkin next to a candle in the South section of a home altar would enhance that effect. Some associate it with Water due to it’s high water content. A pumpkin essential oil would make amazing pumpkin-scented candles for spellwork with the energy from the pumpkin helping to increase the power of spells and any magick that involves the discovery and development of magickal skills as well as promote relaxation and meditation.

Tarot and divination practices may draw on the energies of the pumpkin placed nearby to reveal the unknown and will lend potency to the tools of reading

Pumpkin scented sachets would welcome warm energies into the home and drive away any harmful energies.
Pumpkins are linked to the mysterious, the unknown, the dark, and all kinds of magick.
Be open and aware of the resonance of a pumpkin. Adding a pumpkin drum to a drumming circle may create emotive and magickal effects, bringing to the circle a warming energy, revealing the unknown.

Pear and Persimmon Chutney

My garden fresh harvest
Allowing my harvest and the offerings of my local providores dictate my menu is part of what makes locavorism both a challenge and a joy. My ever supportive fruit and veg retailers had some slightly past retailing pears and fragrant local persimmons and my mind automatically went into chutney mode. A rummage around my garden scored me a late season pear of our own, some chillies, lemons, nasturtium pods, rhubarb and lemon grass. My stores offered dried pears, currants and figs as well as spices and vinegar so here is what we did:

Pear and Persimmon Chutney

Chopped persimmons


1 1/2 kg pears, chopped
6 persimmons, chopped
1 large red onion, diced
5 green chillies, sliced
5 stems rhubarb, sliced
2 tbs lemon rind, finely sliced
1 tbs nasturtium pods, finely sliced
500gm dried fruit
(I used diced dried pear, currants and diced figs)
The pickling liquid
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

1 tsp cinnamon
100 ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
800 ml apple cider vinegar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup backstrap molasses

Chutneying down


Place all the ingredients below the fresh fruit in a large pot and bring to a simmer until the sugars dissolve, add the fresh fruit and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours.
Preserve in clean sterilised jars per the usual methods and set aside for 4 weeks for the flavour to develope.
Enjoy with curries, cheeses, cold meats, as a part of an antipasto platter, added to cream cheese as a dip or in a sandwich.

3 jars of perfect chutney

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Looking for Local and what it means to Me

In The Beginning:

Life threw a few curve balls at me and I made the choice to bring healing into and simplify my life, but what should that, could that mean?

Village life, coastal living, local people, environment, neighbours and self invested projects became a life's focus for me and I make daily effort to be in my moment and in my own choices.

Challenges abound! But that adds to the flavour of all things about living, Meeting the challenge, rising to it and doing my best is a recipe for success, not just to overcome, but to learn, grow, experience and move forward.

Challenge 1: Grow our own food

What a joy it is to have fresh home grown foods right here in our own garden. In 2 years we have changed a neglect blasted barren waste into a productive Eden. 43m2 has been unearthed from under building rubble, fibreglass and rusting hulks and raised up into vegetable beds of bounty. A food forest of similar dimensions has been established with perennial potential and permaculturesque leanings. A herb spiral and henge is verdant and giving as well as a small olive grove and an acid garden for those acid lovers like blueberries. We just this year fulfilled our dream of chickens and a duck and our plans include an aquaculture garden.

Challenge 2: Forage and utilise local wild offerings

Any coastal region will have it's own bounty of wild foods and our location is abundant. We have fished, foraged, scampered and snorkelled our way to amazing foods such as flathead, cockles, abalone, sea urchin and cod with promise and potential scope for blue swimmer crabs, crayfish, scallops, mussels, prawns, mud crabs and more varieties of fish.

We also have foraged for seaweed for the benefit of the garden for the riches of micro minerals and nutrients as well as shell grit for the poultry.

Our acid garden will benefit from pine needles and Autumn is mushroom time! I have also spied on common and vacant land blackberries, loquats and other edibles so our area is full of possibilities

Challenge 3: Spend what little money we have with local owner operated businesses with locally sourced produce

Yes this means asking the hard questions of our shop keepers, but I find the topic a very good one for creating happy relationships with providores. I know a few of the local suppliers and it makes me happy to have my money in their pocket. These salt of the Earth, real and genuine people know and love their produce and their live stock, they treat their life's work with respect and value what they put in as well as what they get out .... how can I not respect their efforts and products and support them? I choose to keep as much as possible local for all these reasons

Challenge 4: Reduce food miles

It's not just enough to grow it or get it from as close as possible, but to also scrutinise the extras that go into the market trolley. Getting the extras from Australian grown or manufactured so that the amount of travel for each component is seen. The cheapest product from a labour devalued country just simply costs too much for me to pay that price.

Challenge 5: Creative food from scratch

To me it's not enough to just cook food. I want to challenge my food to be gourmet offerings at my hands. Involve myself in the process of bringing flavours together to tantalise and amaze my audience of family and friends. I am not happy to just use tried and true food combinations but to mix up tradition with avante guarde and allow my harvests to come together as unique flavour filled feasts.

Being held to gastronomy that is only limited by my harvests and my imagination is it's own challenge and joy.

Challenge 6: Self invest in all I do

Back to basics does not mean limitations so to celebrate this we have taught ourselves and with the help of friends and the internet we have had successes in many self invested projects such as making cheese, soap, pasta, sausages, port, beer, yoghurt, icecream, curry pastes, chutneys, sauces and preserves and allow ourselves few limitations in our creativity.

Together we have built dry stone walls, raised garden beds, chicken layer boxes, chicken run, roosting shed and gates. We have rebuilt a trailer and I have learnt to drive. There is nothing we won't try to pursue our locavore dreams and our self sufficiency endeavours.

Challenge 7: Care for the environment

Our foraging and scampering, our every foray into the great outdoors to me carries with it an inherent duty as custodian of even my small portion of it. Looking after the beauty and cleanliness of the beaches and forest and the wilds is paramount in all we do. We take as little as we need, leave nothing but footprints and remove the detritus of mankind as we go so that even though we use and enjoy it .. it benefits from our passage. We tread as lightly as we can.