In April last year a group of Woden Valley residents gathered at Al Manoosh Lebanese bakery and cafe in Mawson shops. Men and women, average age about 50, plus another woman and me (the elders). We sat outdoors, enjoyed coffee and pastries and, led by Caroline Le Couteur, we formed the Friends of Mawson Ponds.
On March 20 the second Music by Mawson Ponds was held, hosted by the Woden Valley Community Council which receives support and funding from the ACT government. It was a very popular event with choirs, a free barbecue, planting trees and nature walks, floral crowns and painted pots being made. Southern ACT Catchment Group had a stall explaining the environmental advantages of Mawson Ponds.
The ponds are a valuable and beautiful resource with water-cleaning reeds, boulders, seats, families of ducks and birds in surrounding trees. Beside a cycle/walking path the friends have held numerous working bees, the digging, planting of Australian native plants, watering and spreading mulch is creating a wildlife corridor along the fence line.
As observers of 21 enthusiastic volunteers at a working bee, a colleague and I were lucky to be offered an afternoon tea treat of beetroot and chocolate biscuits, made by Caroline Le Couteur's partner Guy de Vanny. Bright hot pinkish-red and delicious, he agreed to share the recipe (below). They've since become known locally as Mawson Ponds Biscuits.
The original recipe is from veggiedesserts.com. His recipe has a few extra comments and changes.
Following a recent appointment, I returned home to a sight that made my day. On the basket of pine cones at my front door were two veg critters. They made my heart sing so I called them The Easy Beets. With edible top foliage (hair) and fat stomachs (the beetroot bulbs or tubers) they had pipe cleaner glasses, legs and feet. They were separated by a "tree" of lemongrass foliage, the stems tied with twine. The chopped bases can be steeped into a tea or added to a curry.
The beetroots had been grown by Christine Mounic. They were The Diggers Club Beetroot Heirloom Mix and Beetroot "Bull's Blood" purchased as seedlings from Bunnings. The heirloom mix with its multi-coloured leaves includes "Chioggia" dating from 1538 in Italy with its stylish circles of red and white, "Globe" and "Burpee's Golden" baby beets which date from 1828 and are great for salads as they don't bleed. The deepest red "Bull's Blood" is perfect for roasting and this variety would be handsome in a border but in Christine's raised bed the foliage is so thick it is even hard to find the labels.
Christine had cured some in brine to put on sandwiches for her partner, Mick, and she was planning to make beetroot gnocchi. I shared one with a younger Polish friend who said she used the beetroot in her veggie soup "and it was yummy".
In Food & Wine last Tuesday, Karen Hardy wrote that the Underground Spirits' Pialligo Estate Gardener's Gin contains wild fennel pollen which adds the burst of sherbet to the flavour profile. I am told it is growing all over Pialligo Estate and with other edibles, was foraged by chief horticulturist Peter Anderson "Farmer Pete".
On a recent trip to the Mugga Lane tip, I was amazed to see surrounding roads completed lined with wild fennel. In my garden, wild fennel is essential, its fronds used weekly atop fish to be grilled. My plants are currently bearing clusters of tiny yellow flowers which produce the pollen. An expensive spice, almost up there with saffron.
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray or biscuit sheet with baking parchment paper.
2. Puree the cooked beetroot. Set aside to cool.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and beetroot and beat well.
4. Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and stir. Add the oats and chocolate and combine.
5. Drop tablespoons of the mixture into the baking tray and flatten slightly. (The mixture is quite thick - use a one tablespoon measurer as a scoop).
6. Bake for 12 minutes or until starting to brown. Allow to cool in the tray for a few minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.
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