Monday, January 28, 2008

Central Coast Field Trip: the Recipes


Me making sandwiches for the interns' lunch in the field....

There have been a couple of requests for the recipes of some of the food I prepared for the field trip, so I'll post them here. Rather than give the quantities for 20 people, which no one in their right mind could possibly want (!), these are for four servings.

Vegie Curry


Sauce (can be made ahead, can be frozen. Make lots to feed your curry habit!):

50 grams ghee
2 onions, chopped
1 bottle of passata
8 cloves garlic, crushed
Around the same quantity of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
Olive oil


2 sticks celery, chopped
4 potatoes chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 medium-sized eggplants
1 sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Bunch fresh coriander



1. Heat oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add onion and stir on medium-low heat till translucent--around ten minutes.

2. Add ginger and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Reduce heat.

3. Add cumin, turmeric and coriander seed and cook gently for five minutes being careful not to let it catch.

4. Remove from heat, add 250 mls water and allow to cool for a few minutes. Put into food processor and blend till smooth.

5. Return to saucepan and add passata, stir. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid it catching.



Peel and chop the eggplant into 1 cm cubes. Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a bowl. Leave for around 15 minutes, then rinse in cold water and dry on paper towels.

Put all vegetables into a pot of salted, boiling water, and parboil.

Drain when the vegies are softening slightly, and add the sauce. You might need to add a little more water at this point. Use some of the water you've used for the vegies.

Cook the lot on a low heat for around an hour, or until the vegetables are cooked. Add water as required.

Serve with Basmati rice, Indian pickles and chutneys, raita (yoghurt with cumin and chopped cucumber) and sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

If you'd like a little flesh in your curry, chop up a couple of chicken thigh fillets, brown in oil, and add when you add the sauce to the vegetables.

A nice tip I picked up from a friend is to wrap leftover curry in filo pastry, and bake to make a version of samosas. I'm going to try that soon!

Pesto Chicken with Pasta and Snow Peas


Jar of pesto (or make your own.... Recipe below)
1 cup plain yoghurt
500 g snow peas
1 BBQd chook from your local BBQd Chook Provender
Shaved parmesan
A handful of pine nuts


1. Remove all the flesh from the chook, torn into bite-sized bits. (No, not the skin. Naughty naughty.)

2. Chop off ends of snow peas, string off the stringy bits. Chop into 1 cm lengths. Blanch in boiling water and plunge into cold water, drain.

3. Toast pine nuts in oven at 180C for around five minutes, till brown. Stir frequently to avoid burning.

4. Mix pesto and yoghurt. Mix in chook and snowpeas.

5. Serve and sprinkle with parmesan and pine nuts.

Pesto sauce


50 g pine nuts
3 bunches of basil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
75 g parmesan, grated
100 mls olive oil


1. Toast pine nuts as above.

2. Chop basil, removing stems.

3. Put pine nuts, parmesan, basil and garlic into processor, blend till smooth. With the motor running, pour oil into mixture until incorporated.

4. Yum. If you have any extra, you can freeze it by first covering it with olive oil.

I hope you enjoy these. The effort is well worth it!

Central Coast Field Trip: the Crommelin Arboretum

Adjoining the Research Station where we stayed on the field trip is the Crommelin Arboretum, around 6 hectares of natural and cultivated native bushland, rainforest and wetland. It's a very peaceful place....

Crommelin Arboretum 1

Crommelin Arboretum  2
An old and well-established Xanthorrhoea
species, with a flower spike and blackened trunk.

Eustrephus latifolius
Eustrephus latifolius. Unusually for a climber, it's a
monocot. Both the berries and tubers are edible.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Central Coast Field Trip: Bulgandry

Last week was the Herbarium 2008 Plant Science Interns' field trip to the Central Coast, specifically to Warrah Reserve. We stayed at the Crommelin Biological Field Station, owned by Sydney University and which backs onto Warrah and is about a kilometre up from Pearl Beach.

As I mentioned, I was the cook, so my botanising was limited although I managed to take some photos, some of which I'll be posting here over the next few days. The food went pretty well. I made a huge vegie curry, and a pesto pasta chicken salad, as well as more sandwiches than I thought humanly possible. The interns and staff didn't starve or die from food poisoning, so I guess it was successful!

I thought that rather than posting photos here in chronological order, I'd present them by family or location. To start with, some orchids. There were both Cryptostylis erecta and subulata about, but I've already posted images of those, so here are some others.

Genoplesium fimbriatum (closeup)

This delicate orchid, Genoplesium fimbriatum, or Fringed Midge Orchid, is far smaller than the image might suggest. The flower is only around a centimetre in diameter. It lacks leaves and is found only on the Australian East coast. Here is the entire plant:

Genoplesium fimbriatum

A rather more showy orchid is this Dipodium sp., a Hyacinth Orchid.

Dipodium sp.

Both these specimens were found at the Bulgandry Aboriginal Site in the Brisbane Waters National Park. Below is the boardwalk surrounding ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, including that of "Bulgandry Man". You can see images of the carvings here.

Bulgandry boardwalk

Actinotus minor, a smaller species in the same genus as the more famous Flannel Flower of which I've previously posted an image, is plentiful at this site. The flower is tiny, and only with close observation would you realise that it's very similar to its bigger cousin.

Actinotus minor

Finally, the moist sandstone heath of Bulgandry is home to this, the Drosera spatulata, a tiny carnivore. The sticky, spatulate leaves, catch small insects.

Drosera spatulata

I'll post again soon with some more images. Right now, I have to do what I thought I'd never want to do ever again: cook dinner!

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Great Regeneration Project

There is a section of our front garden which some people might consider potential "lawn" (ugh, spit!) or just a big pile of weeds. But it holds treasures within. It's not so long since it was bushland, so the soil still contains seeds of the original flora either dormant or recently dispersed, and there are tiny seedlings struggling to find their way out of the invasive plants (both exotic and native) covering them.

The "regen zone". In the foreground is a Telopea
speciosissima (red Waratah). The other species I've planted
are mainly Allocasuarina spp, Eucalyptus spp, and Acmena smithii
(lillypillies). There remain some exotics, including Camellia. I'll
be removing them when their replacements are a little larger.

Today, my friend from the Herbarium, Peta Hinton came for lunch and we spent the afternoon combing the garden looking for seedlings, and removing weeds around them to give them a chance. It'll be a long process, but with patience, we'll let the local flora return to its rightful place. Peta is a veteran bush regenerator and has bogglingly good skills at spotting and identifying native flora when it's barely past the cotyledon stage.

We found an amazing array of seedlings:


  • Grevillea sericea
  • Persoonia pinifolia
  • Banksia oblongifolia


  • Acacia spp.
  • Pultenaea daphnoides
  • Angophora costata
  • Kunzia ambigua


  • Ozothamnus diosmifolium


  • Poranthera microphylla


  • Cryptostylis subulata
  • Cryptostylis erecta


  • Xanthosia pilosa
  • Platysace linearifolia

On the upper left, are two seedlings close together. One is an
Angophora costata, the other an identified Acacia species.
On the right, a Grevillea sericea.

I knew that I had some more terrestrial orchids in the front yard, but until today, didn't know what they were. Now one's flowered and demonstrated itself to be Cryptostylis erecta. There are many yet to flower in this part of the garden, but I'm hoping that when they've got some space, they'll take off too. So now we've got two species of the Cryptostylis genus, this and the Cryptostylis subulata I posted about previously.

Cryptostylis erecta

So, as New Year Resolutions go, this, I think, is a good one. To get the weeds under control and nurture the babies.

Happy new year!