Lorraine Rogers won the pre-Christmas giveaway of the cookbook Three by Selin Kiazim and, in a perfect exchange, I delivered it to her and explored the garden.
Lorraine and her partner Barry Guihot live on a property in Royalla, NSW, having moved there 16 years ago from Macarthur.
What a treat is was for me to visit Royalla for the first time - named for Mount Rob Roy and originally a railway settlement - and be greeted by hills, valleys and full dams. As I entered the couple's property, Apu - named after a god in Peru - and swung open the heavy gate there was a letterbox under which, apparently, a wombat leaves its droppings.
To the north of the house, the entry garden has been created from large limestone rocks, one with layers of coral and a limpet. Lorraine, a former nurse, has done a correspondence horticulture course from Melbourne and night classes in Canberra. Her plantings are a thrilling combination of colour and form.
Many of the plants have been raised from cuttings she has taken and roses were gifts from friends and former patients. As protection against rabbits and kangaroos is an installation of poles and wire. The garden has been through a cyclone which brought down trees, and drought. All water is from tanks and pumped up from a dam.
Up a rise are three llamas which provide "fabulous poo" for the compost. Behind the house the distant view is to a mountain range in the east. Raised vegetable beds were overflowing with coriander, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, chard, spinach, eschallots, rhubarb and a separate asparagus bed. A special area is dedicated to saffron bulbs, their stigmas are harvested in autumn for the kitchen.
Big bold carrots were pulled for me to take home. There are three bee hives and, as it was a hot 32C when I was there, the bees were on "their front verandah" and one hive is a Kenyan top bar design. The bees are especially attracted to eschallot flowers. I asked if there were hens but was told that wedge tailed eagles swoop down and take a chook out of the pen. At that moment a "wedgie" soared overhead making squeaky calls.
In a hollow beneath a large quince tree was the reason Lorraine won the giveaway - four young bushes of mountain pepperberry (Tasmannia lanceolata). This is bush tucker at its spiciest and finest, and said to be high in anti-oxidants. The tallest bush at Apu is male and there are three female bushes. This is the first year they have been together and produced their successful issue, according to Lorraine.
The berries are still green and should ripen by early autumn when they will be dried for winter use in a handsome Huon pine pepper mill from Richmond, Tasmania. The mountain pepper will go into the recipe which follows, into a dry pepperberry rub for for meat to be barbecued and in a pepperberry liqueur.
The solar passive house is environmentally friendly and made for entertaining friends, especially those who like to escape the city for a day. I was given a glass of chilled lemon and lime water which Lorraine made with a neighbour. There were freshly baked gluten-free gem scones because Lorraine's first contact to me was among responses from dozens of readers when I wrote about gem scones and my Great Aunt's gem iron (Kitchen Garden March 30, 2021). Lorraine used her mother's pan and original recipe.
1 head cauliflower, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mountain pepperberry
pinch garlic powder
1 large leaf of kale
3 tbsp pine nuts
bunch fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp butter, melted
Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash and dry cauliflower then chop into large chunks. Wash and dry kale, remove stem, roughly chop leaf and set aside. Place cauliflower into large bowl, add olive oi, salt, mountain pepperberry and garlic powder and gently toss until it is all coated. Pour cauliflower onto the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Take cauliflower out of oven and add pine nuts and kale. Put the pan back into the oven and roast for an additional five to eight minutes or until kale is crispy. Pour melted butter and sprinkle fresh thyme on top and gently mix.
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