Dig in and earn a tasty crust

LAURA FAIRE
Last updated 05:00 13/07/2014

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Rain is making it hard to get my new garden planted up. I battle mud and soil compaction in my heavy clay plot. It is weather for feet up, fireside and books, not stomping about in gumboots and raincoats.

Yet every little victory helps. My cavolo nero looks as if it has been attacked by a hole punch; 15 caterpillars met their maker this week. Fennel fronds wave about for future fish. Broad beans are poking through, many are already staked. My late-planted garlic is mulched in hope and the broccoli and cabbages are enviable (at least until the critters find them). Every gardener has their problems: mine are chomping chewing creatures and a lot of clay.

To deal with the clay, I am committed to improving the soil with time, organic matter and a few soil samples to keep us on track. This is by far the longer route; eventually it will be the better one. Creating more food-growing land and improving the planet is always worthwhile. As a renter, I just hope that the next tenant enjoys the benefits rather than opting for a rockery with AstroTurf lawn.

There are a few things that are already harvestable in my three-month old garden: Baby kale, all the herbs, perpetual spinach, picking celery, rhubarb and baby fennel. At this midwinter junction, I am preparing for spring by planting rocket, shallots, silverbeet, strawberries, peas and kohlrabi. In another three months, dinner will again come mostly from the garden.

When you lumber in, soaked and muddy, a good hearty lunch prepared in advance is worth its weight in gold. This tart is wholesome. It uses wholemeal flour and its wholegrain flavour is a perfect match for the sweetness of the leek and fennel. However, it is imperative that the wholemeal flours used are fresh since any sourness in germ will ruin the whole tart. This is because the lovely healthy oils that are removed to make it white and long-lasting are still present.

Oils will eventually go rancid. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for best shelf life. To check, smell it and taste it. If in doubt, chuck it out. If you now have no wholemeal flour, use plain instead.

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