"The garden is a little vegetable machine", said Connor Lynch in January. He was born in Canberra and his parents, both nurses, raised the family in Waramanga and at the family's property at Jugiong.
Connor is in his final year of a nursing degree at the University of Canberra and he has just returned from a month's course in Mexico City where he was studying public health care and, inadvertently, how to cook good Mexican. While Connor was away, his partner Ky Ruprecht kept the garden thriving. Ky is studying biomedical science and is also the barista at Farmers Daughter in Yarralumla.
We first met Connor as the cook at the Greenhouse Cafe in Fyshwick (Kitchen Garden August 4, 2010) which sparked his interest in eating and growing local and organic produce. He had started school-based hospitality certificates at Marist College and students trained there and in industry, for Connor at the Greenhouse cafe.
His grandmother was an amazing cook who, after she died, left behind a larder full of pickles and preserves and recipe books and Connor was always in the kitchen cooking with his mother when he was young.
With two friends, Connor has been renting a house in O'Connor for 14 months and he planted the first seeds in autumn last year. He wanted to learn more about biodynamics - the nutrients, compost and soil preparation - before "getting stuck into the garden".
Ky and Connor love to work on the garden together and they have an Instagram account for it: @twoboysonecrop.
During early autumn they are harvesting lots of Apollo zucchini bought as a punnet of seedlings from EPIC markets, kale, chard, cucumbers, Kent pumpkins, beans and herbs. Their tomato varieties include black cherry, ox heart, broad ripple yellow, mini Roma and pink bumble bee. They like independent nurseries including the Heritage Nursery at Yarralumla with its Diggers range of old and wonderful varieties of seeds but they also believe in making gardening friends and sharing plants and seeds.
Connor put in a bunch of borlotti beans and red ruby watermelon which was planted rather early so was well established by the time it became very hot and didn't require additional weather protection in their plot. Ky is in charge of the seedlings at the moment and he has trays of cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli and oak leaf lettuce.
There are old fig and pear trees in the garden which were probably planted by the man who built the home in the 1950s. Connor does his best to look after the fruit trees and in turn they supply the household with yummy fruit. He recently made fig, pear and vanilla paste which the household enjoyed with cheese.
The three residents all cook but Connor is usually the one behind the stove in the kitchen. Gilly Watson loves Asian food and makes the best laksa Connor has ever eaten. He makes pumpkin, leek and feta triangles (one of his signature recipes) and they have home preserved pear and blackberry jam, tomato chutney and tomato chilli jam sitting in the fridge and Connor is currently pickling radishes.
Since he returned from his travels, the cuisine of the month has been Mexican. This soup is made everywhere in Mexico and, like many old recipes, changes a bit depending on where you are or who you are with. This is Connor's version influenced by a chef from Mexico City who taught him the fundamentals.
2 cups vegetable oil
4 white corn tortillas
6 ripe large tomatoes, sliced
2 dried Guajillo chillies, sliced (mild Mexican chilli gives great flavour and colour but if you cannot
source Guajillo, any longer red chillies like Serrano would work)
1 white onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups water or vegetable stock
3 young zucchinis, roughly chopped
cream to serve
pork crackling "chicharron" (not essential)
Heat the vegetable oil, keeping aside two tbsp, to 175C in a medium sized saucepan. Cut the tortillas into thin strips and then fry in the oil until golden and cfrunchy, remove and leave aside to drain off excess oil. Meanwhile saute tomatoes, garlic, onion and chillies in the remaining oil in a medium saucepan. Keep aside a few slices of chilli for garnish.
Cook for about ten minutes until the onions are translucent and the tomatoes have broken down. Add the water or vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Boil for two minutes before bringing it down to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the chillies soften.
Blend the soup, being careful it is not too hot and explodes! Return the blended soup to the saucepan on a low heat and add the young zucchinis, stir through for two minutes. Evenly portion the fried tortillas into four soup bowls and add some chunks of fresh avocado into each (surprisingly delicious in the soup). Ladle the soup on top and garnish with cream, coriander, chilli and lime (plus chicharron).
Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.