Last week we met Liz and Mervyn Dorrough by the pergola at Cook community garden. They were chipping mortar from old red Canberra bricks located in the country by Peter Weddell. Mervyn was then laying the bricks atop soil in an area beyond a table.
Liz served tea from pottery mugs from her wood-fired kiln and delicious little biscotti filled with fennel seeds, which her son also makes with orange zest (recipe follows, adapted from Italy On My Mind the wonderful blog of Paola Bacchia who lives in Australia). The biscotti are eaten on St Martin's Day in November to accompany new wine. You can eat and sip under a grapevine-covered pergola.
The Dorroughs came to Canberra in 1981 when Mervyn began working as a landscape architect on the then-new Parliament House at the beginning of the project. Previously, he had been working for Harry Howard & Associates. Harry was the landscape architect for the High Court and the National Gallery of Australia and Mervyn was lucky to work on both projects, a great learning experience.
At Parliament House, he worked for Peter G Rolland & Associates, among the original design team put together by Mitchell Giurgola & Thorpe. Mervyn was part of a small team headed by Peter Britz and they saw their role as fulfilling Aldo Giurgola's vision. At the end of 1988, Peter Britz and Mervyn formed a partnership to oversee the completion of the landscape.
Liz and Mervyn and their two children had enjoyed the Canberra lifestyle so did not return to live in Sydney. Liz had the opportunity to attend the Canberra School of Arts ceramics diploma course.
Her main interest was wood-fired domestic ware so, under the instruction of Owen Rye, she built a kiln at the art school and also in the backyard of their house in Curtin.
In 1999, the couple bought a property south of Bemboka in the Bega Valley, 80 hectares of degraded grazing land and a former old dairy farm with undulating hills and gullies adjacent to the South East Forest National Park. Over the next 20 years, they established an olive grove of 650 trees and a finger lime orchard of 125 trees and sold the crops locally as well as in Canberra. They had a small enclosed fruit orchard and a citrus orchard and grew hardy vegetables.
They sold the farm in 2017 and settled back in Canberra at Wybalena Grove where they transferred their need for the natural environment to the Aranda bushland. They have a small plot in the netted Wybalena Grove community garden for seasonal leaf vegetables plus peas, broccoli, aubergine and capsicum.
The Dorroughs have been at Cook Canberra Organic Growers Society garden for three years. The plot is for hardy veggies that require more space including potatoes, garlic, onions, pumpkin and silverbeet. They get ideas from other plot holders which included successful winter harvested scarlet runner beans, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Biscotti di San Martino
250g plain flour
4g instant dried yeast
10g fennel seeds - crushed
zest of 1 orange
50g butter at room temperature
75ml tepid water (more or less as needed)
- Place flour, sugar, salt, yeast, fennel seeds and orange zest in a bowl. Give a quick whisk to combine, then add butter, chopped into small pieces. Work that through dry ingredients with your fingertips.
- Add tepid water, bit by bit, stirring initially with a spoon then, using your hands to bring it together. Add water until the dough comes together. Knead for five minutes until the dough is smooth and homogenous.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Bread off balls (22g) and roll into a rope 12cm long. Form a spiral with the rope tucking the outer end under the biscotto. Place on a baking tray leaving space between spirals so they can rise.
- Cover loosely with a tea towel and place in a warm spot for 1.5 hours. They should almost double in height. Place in 180C oven and bake for 12-14 minutes until golden. Turn off the oven and remove the tray for softer biscotti or let them sit in the oven for another 20 minutes to become crisp and firm.
Christmas Market Harvest Stall
The Christmas Market Harvest Stall is at the National Arboretum Canberra Village Centre on Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Plants and preserves that are made from figs harvested in the forest and savoury tastes from the Discovery Kitchen Garden.
A Journey in the Garden Villa Zarlenga
A Journey in the Garden Villa Zarlenga is on December 4 and 5 from 9am to 4pm at 50 Investigator Street, Red Hill, among Teresa Zarlenga's 28 fruit trees, 50-metre grapevine, vegetables, hens and stories from Hazel Davies about the legend of the desert pea.