Kitchen Garden: Exploring the Monaro in Autumn
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Kitchen Garden: Exploring the Monaro in Autumn

Autumn on the Monaro is a glorious season. Recently two dozen Canberrans headed south. Our bus stopped in Bredbo where a crabapple tree was laden with tart, dark crimson fruit near the sign about the Murrumbidgee River and surrounding valley. On via Cooma to Lake Williams in Nimmitabel with its boardwalk views to the distant mountains. We enjoyed country hospitality on a local property, eating and drinking, wandering the garden, checking out the chooks and cattle in an adjoining paddock.

Now it is your turn to experience the Monaro plains landscape, the trees in autumnal colour and savoury and sweet district flavours. On April 21 and 22 from 10am to 4pm, the Nimmitabel and District Garden Club presents its Autumn on Monaro Open Gardens and Plant Fair. It will be held at the showground, in a huge paddock area with large barn/pavilion on Ryedale Road, just beyond Lake Williams.

Pam Scott's apple pecan cake.

Pam Scott's apple pecan cake.

Photo: Supplied

Denham Williams, president of the organising committee and a local property owner, says among stalls from a dozen nurseries there will be rare and cold climate plants for sale including fruit trees from local nurseries Tablelands Trees and Shrubs, Glenbog Nursery, and Gary Reid's Obscure Bulbs, as well as gardening tools and equipment, new and old gardening books and magazines, garden art furnishings and outdoor furniture and, maybe best of all, lots of delicious country food.

Nimmitabel Lions Club will be running a barbecue, Cooma Rotary Club serving coffee and hot chocolate, the local Nimmitabel pre-school will have soup and rolls, and Annabel from the popular Feed Cafe and Catering in Cooma will have more upmarket boxed lunches with homemade lemonade and piccolos of wine. Jams and pickles will be for sale in the Pavilion including Errinundra Preserves from Laura Theuma of Tubbut who grows and includes native mountain pepper in her preserves.

Cox's Orange Pippin apples at Bibbenluke Inn garden.

Cox's Orange Pippin apples at Bibbenluke Inn garden.

Photo: Supplied
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You will have an opportunity to explore the historic village of Nimmitabel - be sure to try a delicious sausage rolls from Nimmitabel Bakery and a famous fruit cake from Merrita's Fruitcakes, both on the main road.

Three gardens on properties at Bibbenluke will welcome visitors. They are Gourock owned by Sue and Peter Martin-Smith where morning tea will be served on both days where magnificent views and Peter's skilful stonework lead the wanderer to a productive vegetable garden. Bob Teasdale's sculptures will be in the garden and he is donating to a raffle at the Plant Fair.

At Lucy Culliton and Jamie Morgan Bruce's Bibbenluke Lodge, artist Lucy has created a garden of exuberance and colour where a number of rescue animals enjoy the environment. Artist Ian Marr will be exhibiting his paintings in Lucy's studio. Pam and John Scott have developed the extended garden at Old Bibbenluke Inn for 37 years. Morning tea will also be provided on sloping lawns among the perennial borders and Australian native plant area.

Pam Scott is a great cook and gardener who would bake a batch of scones in her Mum's kitchen as a child. In 2012, Pam spent a year producing Bibbenluke Chef Family Favourites with her family tasting and testing all the recipes in her home kitchen, often using fruit and vegetables from the Old Bibbenluke Inn garden. At this time of year, Cox's Orange Pippin apples are a particular treat.

For more than 20 years, Pam's dearest friend, Annie, posted to her the weekly recipes from Tuesday's Good Livingwhich started in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1982. Many of those recipes are included among her family favourites.

The recipe which caught my eye was Pam's apple pecan cake which was very popular on the regular local street stall, cut into four, sifted with icing sugar and beribboned. Everyone wanted the recipe, so here it is.

Autumn on Monaro

Bookings preferred for catering. Contact Pat Nichols on (02) 6454 6351 or email killarna86@gmail.com. Cost of $30 includes entry to the fair, the three gardens, and morning tea. School age children free. Lunch can be purchased at the showground pavilion. All proceeds to local community projects and charities.

Pam Scott's apple pecan cake

2 cooking apples, chopped and peeled

125g melted butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1.5 cups plain flour

1 tsp carb soda

1 tsp each cinnamon and allspice

1 cup pecan pieces

Line the base of a large 25cm spring form tin with baking paper and spray the sides with non-stick spray. Add chopped apples to sugar in a large bowl. Beat egg into slightly cooled melted butter and add to apples. Sift flour, carb soda and spices into the mix and gently fold through. Lastly add pecans and spread into tin. Bake in a moderate oven 180C for 45-50 minutes or until shrunk away from the sides. Dust with icing sugar or use 'sugar snow' which does not absorb moisture.

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