Book Review – A Year of Practiculture, Rohan Anderson

 

Book Review: A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson

There is nothing like the passing of a close loved one to sharpen your focus on living a simple life.

My husband’s father passed two weeks ago and we are still coming to terms with it all.

At the same time, I’ve been doing some contract work and while the work is meaningful, it’s challenging and I don’t have the internal resources to do that job well and continue to live simply.

So – I’ll be finishing up work in six weeks before we head overseas and I’ll head into another stage of simple life re-evaluation. Life is too short. Loved ones need to be loved. Life is to be lived and not endured.

So as a little break from my low waste journey, I thought I’d review a book that makes me happy. A Year of Practiculture by Rohan Anderson is just that book. It’s so many things! It’s a:

  1. Biography of one man’s journey from office worker to self-sufficient simple lifer. It’s a great story of how you can prioritise your health and have a meaningful, nearly self-sufficient life.
  2. Funny book. It’s hilarious. If you have a teenage boy sense of humour like I do, you’ll be chuckling the whole way through this book.
  3. Recipe book. It’s got 100 no-fuss recipes from Rohan, his garden and things he hunts. AND THE RECIPES ARE DELICIOUS. Fancy some lamb-neck with summer broad beans anyone? It’s a wonderful seasonal recipe book that you can use as your garden produces fresh, bountiful crops.
  4. Practical how-to in the garden book, written especially for Australian conditions. I love the way he makes mistakes and records them so we can learn from them. Like investing too much of the garden bed in a crop that didn’t produce (corn) and the precise calculations you need to make when surviving off the land.

I have a major confession. I am only half way through the book. I made my kids buy it for me for Christmas, and I greedily started zooming through the pages, sneaking little moments to read a little bit more. But then I realised because this book gives me such pleasure, I will eek it out through the seasons. I read Spring; Summer has been read, recipes tried and now I will wait until Autumn to dive in again to my favourite book. In the meantime I might re-read Spring and Summer again. Thanks Rohan for producing amazing material and inspiring us to grow our own, and live a simple life.

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Root to stalk, suburbia style

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One of the amazing things I am learning as I reap the benefits of my slow growing brassicas and beetroot is that the winter/early spring crop can provide a family like mine an abundance of greens for dinner. I’m almost at an over-supply moment where I am going to have to start blanching and freezing. How exciting.

I’ve learned to cut off the broccoli head and to keep harvesting as smaller off shoots present themselves. This alone is keeping our family of seven every second week well feed. My cauliflower is now being harvested and eaten as well.

But the true gem of the garden, to provide sustenance during the lean late winter/early spring months is all wrapped up in amazing little book called Root to Stalk cooking by Tara Duggan.

I did know about cutting off the outside of broccoli stalks and slicing the inner stalk thinly for a stir fry, but my mind was completely blown when I realised that not only could I utilise the broccoli or beetroot in my suburban paradise, but I could also utilise their leaves. Kaboom. World blown.

Just like the snout to tail philosophy, much more of the vegetables grown organically in the suburban back yard can be eaten, providing essential nourishment.

So now, as I see the tender little leaves of broccoli and cauliflower growing, I harvest them, wash and slice finely for stir-fries. Beetroot leaves are harvest also and used for salads or stir-fries.

My brussel spout plant heads are also harvested (as well as the brussel sprouts of course !)

And my garden has become so much more interesting as a result, as I learn about the parts of the garden that I can harvest for nutritional value) and feed my family. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Wintery cauliflower soup

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It’s definitely winter in the nation’s capital – even predicted to snow tomorrow in higher urban areas. This is a B&W photo of our view from the balcony of our house yesterday.

Thankfully when I moved her in 2006 I invested in the right bedding and outerwear to cope.

Still it looks bleak and wintery. Just the time for warm winter soups to warm the spirit.

In the suburban veggie patch, I am growing broccoli and brussel sprouts this year. Cauliflowers too are cheap ($2 each) and in season, so I found this quick and easy recipe in the latest winter edition of Good magazine (a New Zealand based publication that has piqued my interest of late).

I don’t eat onions or garlic, so I substituted my home grown spring onions, some homemade chicken stock from the freezer, a squeeze of lemon from our bountiful lemon tree and I had some left over cream in the fridge. Delicious.

In cooking this soup, I timed it carefully. I have a tendency to leave soups on the stove and overcook the beautiful, fresh seasonal ingredients, so this time I followed the timing in the recipe to a tee and it tastes delicious.   A sprinkle of parmesan and some crusty homemade bread rolls are just the trick.

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This is a picture of soup once I added my still partially frozen home made chicken stock.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup (courtesy of Good Magazine, Issue 43)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp of butter

1 medium onion

3 gloves of garlic

1-2 green cardamom pods, crushed

Half a cauliflower, chopped, including the stalks

Juice of half a lemon

3 cups water or vegetable stock

½ cup cream

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Method:

In a saucepan on moderate heat gently sauté onion until translucent. Reduce the heat and add garlic, cardamom, chopped cauliflower and lemon juice and cook for about ten minutes until everything is slightly toasted by not browned.

Transfer everything to a lidded saucepan, add water, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for approx. 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is soft. Remove from heat and cool slightly

When cool, take out cardamom pods and blend until smooth. Before serving, bring to boil and stir in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummo.