For years I’ve cultivated a lush green menagerie of indoor plants but herbs and other edible essentials of the kitchen garden have eluded me.
As confided previously, I’ve successfully managed to murder every herb plant unlucky enough to cross paths with me (apart from one long-suffering chilli plant that continues clinging inexplicably to life, and some chives which were devoured over a two week period by Bailey).
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh by suggesting I deliberately exterminated each specimen, as I really did try my best to care for them. I consulted the gurus at my local Dawson’s garden centre, scrolled through Google and various Perth-specific gardening websites, as well as asking my green-thumb-endowed friends at work.
But it got to the point that I was positively embarrassed to return to Dawson’s to buy yet another batch of thyme, or sage, or fennel – for Christ sake, fennel grows in the barren sand next to the train line! – in order to replace the sad, desiccated remains in my plant crematorium.
I gave up, conceding that there just wasn’t enough direct sunlight reaching my ground floor apartment each day to keep a potted kitchen garden happy.
And then earlier this year, growing conditions and my odds improved dramatically – I moved house.
I now live in a second floor apartment with an east-facing kitchen window that receives direct morning sun and a west-facing balcony that is bathed in light come the afternoon.
Thus I experimented with a few initial seedling pots, keeping them on the kitchen sill during the morning and then moving them out to the balcony at lunchtime.
So far I’ve achieved promising results – a healthy mint plant, now big enough to need re-potting; a large head of radicchio from which I’ve already reaped one harvest; and a bountiful crop of rocket (which has now received a severe haircut in preparation for a second harvest, fingers crossed)…
Homegrown rocket yields so much for flavour and pep than the bland supermarket offerings and pairs perfectly with tart goat’s cheese and the sweetness of, well, pears.
This delicious salad recipe was given to my mother by a friend and remains a firm favourite of ours. Try to pick pears that are on the slightly unripe side, as they will still be sweet but marvellously crisp.
rocket, pear & goat’s cheese salad
with walnut dressing
2 handfuls fresh rocket, washed
1 handful baby spinach, washed
¾ cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 beurre bosc pears
100g soft goat’s cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup walnuts
½ clove fresh garlic
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 orange
Firstly, prepare the dressing by placing all dressing ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until you have a thick, even consistency.
Taste and adjust flavours if needed, then set aside whilst the salad in prepared.
Quarter the pears, removing the core and seeds, and cut into fine slices. In a large bowl, gently toss the pear slices with the rocket, baby spinach, walnut pieces and lemon juice (the lemon juice will help prevent the pear slices from browning quickly).
Break the soft goat’s cheese into small chunks and dot over the top of the salad.
Drizzle over the walnut dressing and serve immediately.