Raised in the garden

If you've ever thought about growing your own vegetables but have limited space or a difficult site, then raised beds are one of the quickest and easiest ways of establishing a garden in your own backyard.

They are also great in areas with poor or stony soil and can be constructed to any size or shape, depending on the space available.

Because of their elevation, raised beds also have a higher soil temperature, making them ideal for cultivating vegetables and herbs. Four corner posts, dug deep into the ground, with four walls of logs or planks supported in between, is all you really need to get started.

Fill the garden bed with even amounts of topsoil, manure and compost and mix together using a garden fork. Water well and you're ready to get planting.

Plant the things you think you will use most often around the edges, as these will be the easiest to harvest, and be sure to sow seeds in even rows for best results.

Raised beds require a little more watering than traditional gardens as they have particularly good drainage but they do have the added advantage of not getting waterlogged in really wet weather and can be worked on all year round.

Our raised beds are literally overflowing at this time of year and we're spoilt for choice when it comes to the kitchen.

 


Roast duck with bok choi and plum sauce
Serves 4
Ingredients

1 size 22 whole duck
100ml peanut oil
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, halved
5cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 long red chilli, halved and seeds removed
3 star anise
salt and pepper
40ml peanut oil
2 bunches bok choi or Asian greens, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
small knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup plum sauce, warmed (See recipe)
3 cups jasmine rice, cooked

Plum Sauce
Makes 8x 300ml jars

100ml vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4 red chillies
1 head garlic, peeled
1x 10cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup soft brown sugar
5kg ripe red plums, halved and stoned

 

Method

Preheat oven to 190degC.

Trim excess skin from duck and remove neck, leg and wing bones. Heat half of the peanut oil in a medium-sized pot over a medium to high heat. Add trimmings and bones and brown well before adding carrot, celery, onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Continue to sweat for 10 minutes before covering with cold water and bringing to the boil.

Reduce heat, add star anise and simmer for 2 hours, skimming occasionally to remove any fat that rises to the surface of duck stock. Place duck, breast-side up, into a roasting pan and brush with a little peanut oil. Season skin and the inside of the duck cavity with a little salt and pepper. Roast duck for 40 minutes before reducing temperature to 150degC and roasting for a further 2 hours or until duck is tender.

Remove duck from oven and allow to cool before carving breasts and legs from the carcass. Cut duck carcass into 3 pieces, add to duck stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain duck stock into a clean pot discarding trimmings and vegetables and bring to the boil over a high heat. Boil rapidly until stock has reduced and become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, place sauce into a small saucepan and reserve for later use. Increase oven temperature to 200degC.

Place roasted duck pieces on an oven tray lined with baking paper and place into oven for 4 minutes to reheat. While duck is warming, heat remaining peanut oil in a large pot over high heat. Add bok choi, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute until greens are cooked. Serve greens and duck on a platter with a little warmed duck jus and plum sauce drizzled over the top. Serve immediately with remaining sauces on the side and a bowl of jasmine rice.

Plum Sauce

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy-based pot over a medium heat and sweat onions, chillies, garlic, ginger, star anise and cinnamon, without colour, for 10 minutes. Add sugar and continue to cook until sugar begins to caramelise. Add plums and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until sauce is thick. Remove from heat and pass through a mouli or coarse sieve. Place passed sauce back into a clean pot and return to the boil for 1 minute before bottling in hot, sterilised jars. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Wine: Syrah

 


Herb, cheese and onion scones
Makes 6 large scones
Ingredients

750g plain flour
1¼ tsp baking soda
2½ tsp cream of tarter
1½ cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 small brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
½cup parsley, picked and roughly chopped
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
half tsp sea salt
125ml cream
450ml full-cream milk

 

Method

Preheat oven to 160degC.

Sift flour, baking soda and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl with half of the cheese. Add onion, parsley, thyme, salt, cream and two-thirds of the milk. Gently mix together using a butter knife to avoid overworking. Watch dough as it starts to come together. If dough is dry, add a little more of the remaining milk as required. Turn dough out on to a lightly floured bench top and gently finish working dough together.

Lightly press dough down to a 5cm-thick square and cut into 6 pieces with a floured knife. Place scones on to a baking paper-lined oven tray and scatter with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked in the centre. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with butter and seasonal chutney.

 


Zucchini fritti
Serves 4
Ingredients

½ cup maize cornflour
½ cup chickpea flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
large pinch ground black pepper
150ml soda water
2L canola oil
5 medium zucchini, halved and sliced on an angle
1 cup plain flour

 

Method

Place all dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add soda water and whisk to a smooth batter. Heat oil in a large pot on the stove until it reaches 170degC. (Use a heatproof thermometer to test the temperature.)

Toss zucchini in a little plain flour before placing into the batter. Remove each piece of zucchini from batter and carefully place into the oil. Cook for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent fritti from clumping together. Remove with a slotted or Chinese spoon, drain on absorbent kitchen paper, season and serve immediately.

Wine: Viognier


• Bevan and Monique Smith own the multi-award-winning Riverstone Kitchen, just south of the Waitaki bridge in North Otago. Bevan is also author of Riverstone Kitchen: recipes from a chef's garden and Riverstone Kitchen Simple.