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Jacican harvest lunch is a celebration of all that Gippsland and my kitchen garden has to offer.

For your harvest lunch, you will arrive at 11am. As you walk up the ramp into Jacican, I will greet you and offer a tea or coffee while we wait for all the guests to arrive.

welcome to jacican

Once everybody is assembled, I take you into the teaching kitchen. On the bench is an apron for your use, a take-home recipe booklet with today’s menu, and water and nibbles. 

jacican teaching kitchen

I hand out baskets, scissors, knives and gardening gloves, and together we head off to our three-quarter-acre kitchen garden to pick the garden herbs, along with the fruit and vegetables for today’s lunch. 

visit the Jacican kitchen garden

Every day, I pick the produce that I need from the kitchen garden, watching the lifecycle of the garden. All my produce is grown using organic principles, without the use of herbicides and pesticides. This method of gardening means my produce is flavourful and just how nature intended it to be. It does, however, leave me open to the elements, meaning uniform shapes and sizes cannot always be achieved – an aspect of my garden story that I am proud of.

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As a young girl, I would read the cookbooks that mum kept in the bottom kitchen drawer. As there was always flour, butter, milk, and eggs in the house, I was continuously searching for new recipes to bake. As a girl I would make spend my weekend kneading, folding and baking puff pastry to make tarts, creating new versions of candies and baking all the colour rainbow cakes. This is where I got my drive to learn the techniques to make the perfect French fruit flan. Sweet short crust pastry, diplomat cream, topped with fresh fruit and clear cake glaze.

Learn to make a French Fruit tart at Jacican

At Jacican, I make all my pastry from scratch, spending up to three days making fresh puff pastry – one day to make the detrempe, the second day to do the first two folds then rest overnight and the third day to fold and turn twice more. From there, it can become vanilla slice!

Vanilla slice made from fresh puff pasty at Jacican

On the up-side, the rough puff pastry only takes 20 minutes. A quick pastry that you can make in the afternoon, then bake for dinner.

Choux pastry has recently become a favourite, frequently making an appearance on the harvest lunch menu as dessert (with fresh curd and ice-cream). I’ve even worked out a gluten-free version of profiteroles.    

Making lollies came about when cooking with my niece. She wanted to learn how to make musk sticks and so did I. Now there’s musk sticks, boiled lollies, caramels and chocolates coming out of my kitchen regularly.

make your own box of lollies

Not everything I bake contains flour, sugar or animal products. As a chef, I am always on the look out for new ways to bake things and new recipes to write and make. This has led me to develop my own recipes for gluten-free and vegan cakes, using fresh fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden and no-gluten. There are even a few recipes I share in gluten-free baking that are sugar-free as well.

Passion Cake with Almond Cream

If you can’t make it to any of the scheduled pastry classes, I am happy to host a private pastry class of your choice any time you like. This includes macarons and dome desserts.

Book a private dome dessert making class at Jacican

Let’s get together and bake!

Jaci

Each preserve I make at Jacican is 12 months in the making – planning each year’s harvest, nurturing the kitchen garden to prove its bounty, picking the fruit and vegetables the moment they are at their best, and taking that moment to create my unique range of preserves. Preserving is seasonal, which is why I make jam when I can.

Learn to make jam at Jacican

This first fruit of the year in my kitchen garden is the berries, peaches, and plums, meaning jam, breaking out the Vacola and lots and lots of my hot plum sauce. 

Making plum hot sauce at Jacican

Each year, I grow from seeds, upwards of 100 tomato plants, all the different shapes, sizes, and colours, along with zucchinis and cucumbers. With the fresh young greens, fruit relishes are made, followed closely by the long cook chutneys and sauces. Most years, it is unlikely you will find a ‘normal’ red tomato in my garden, leading me to develop sweet black tomato chutney and black tomato sauce. 

Jaci in kitchen garden at Jacican

As I come to the end of autumn, quinces appear from the neighbours. Many, many quinces. Jelly and paste are made to serve with cheese or pickled to go with roast dinner. 

Quince jelly

The cooler months produce citrus – lemons, orange, limes, and cumquats. Marmalades and butter curds emerge from the kitchen, along with brandy-soaked fruit for a little tipple later. If I’ve had my planting right this is closely followed by the brassicas, meaning buckets of sauerkrant and kimchi can be found fermenting on the kitchen bench. 

lemon marmalade

The start of spring identifies the start of the kitchen garden lifecycle, with the elderflower the first tree to bloom. I will pick a bucket of blooms, soak in  juice for a few days and then I have elderflower cordial. By now in the year, I am looking forward to planting next year’s seeds, watching and waiting for the kitchen garden life-cycle to being again for another year. 

Jaci picking elderflower

If you would like to learn about my kitchen garden life-cycle and make your own preserves, join me for these very seasonal preserves making cooking classes.

See you all in the kitchen!

Jaci

Over the last few months, I have spent many hours in the kitchen garden weeding, planting and mulching. The one thing is though, the weeds never seem to go away. So, I have come up with a way to deal with them – Eat them!

 jaci holding a plate of warrigal greens with oyster sauce

There is always an assortment of greens growing wild in my kitchen garden – kale, nasturtiums, rocket and this year self-seeded red leaf lettuce has lined the patch around the citrus tree all by itself. I am always cooking blanched and braised green. I do love mine braised with white wine, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and finished with some cream.  

I'm going to get back out in the garden and see what weediness I can find.

Braised Warrigal greens with Oyster Sauce

Warrigal greens (Tetragonia Tetragonioides) is a native ground cover found in Australia, New Zealand, and eastern Asia. A little while ago, I visited an urban farm in Melbourne, their nursery was selling very small plants for $20.00 each. Mine just grows wild from a cutting someone gave me and has a spread of about two square metres.

Jaci picking Warrigal Greens

We pick this leafy green in my harvest lunches and serve alongside beef dishes. It turns out I like it boiled and dressed with oyster sauce - just like you would find greens served at the local Chinese restaurant.

To cook your Warrigal greens

  1. Pick as many as you would like to serve. Warrigal greens will not shrink down like spinach so only take what you will need.
  2. Pluck leaves away from stems and wash very well.
  3. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add Warrigal Green and boil for two minutes. Drain.
  4. Place in serving dish and drizzle over the oyster sauce.

Warrigal greens with oyster sauce

 

Just outside Mirboo North, at Milly & P’lette farm cottage you will find Mary Germano Smeriglio. Mary has always cooked and shared things we may have thought where weeds for her family. Learning from her mother, Mrs. Paolina Germano, at an early age, Mary’s recipe for Cosce Vecchie has now been past on to her daughters, as well as me.

Mary Smeriglio shares her recipe for Dandelion Greens with Jaci from Jacican

I was lucky to share a meal of Cosce Vecchie, homemade woodfired bread topped with olive oil, home-dried oregano and salt, Mary’s mother’s eggplant parmigiana and slices of fresh prosciutto with her and her husband Joe, when I called around to learn to cook dandelions.

Mary picks the nice tender greens. To pick the dandelion, she puts a knife under the flat weed and slides it across. She removes any dead or yellow leaves and you don’t eat the yellow flower stalks. You will have to wash thoroughly before use.

Cosce Vecchie (Dandelion Greens)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add salt and the greens, pushing them down with a wooden spoon until they are all submerged under the water

When the leaves are tender, drain in a colander and press down firmly with a potato masher or small saucer to remove the excess water. Place in a large bowl and cut roughly with kitchen scissors. Loosen with a fork.

Place on a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt. A squeeze of lemon juice finishes it off nicely.

Lunch at Mary Smeriglio of dandelion greens

You can find this recipe in Nonna's Secret Recipe Book, part of the Mirboo North Italian Festa

Jaci

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