Bare Seasons: July in the Southern Hemisphere

Seasonal cooking is all about eating food that it is at it best, making the most of your country's produce. The southern hemisphere seasons can seem bizarre as some parts continue mild warm weather, while others frost and snow prevail. This results in a diverse selection of ingredients. This best rule to follow is to eat produce local to you, not only will your food be fresher but you will be helping small producers and the environment. These days this is far easier than it was in the past with the rise in popularity of farmers markets.


Spanner Crabs season peaks now until October, eat them fresh (boiled) with plenty of lemon, home-made mayonnaise and Tabasco. While Northern Territory mud crabs will soon be scarce, stir-fry with garlic, spring onion and chilli, toss in coriander, a dash of Thai fish sauce and a generous squeeze of lime juice. Wild Saucer Scallops are much whiter than the commercial variety. As with all scallops they need little cooking and if anything are best under cooked than over, as the will become rubbery. Delicious cooked in their shells with a little butter, garlic and herbs. John Dory, yellow fin tuna, flathead, pink snapper, King George whiting, Warhou (excellent in curries) and pacific oysters are all good this month.


Swedes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and many other varieties of root vegetables are in abundance in the winter months. Jerusalem Artichokes are the edible tuber of a sunflower native to America, it was introduced to Europe in the 17th century. They are not as the name suggest related to artichokes. The name could have resulted from a mispronunciation of the Italian word for sunflower, Girasole, resulting in Jerusalem and the artichoke may because the French explorer Samuel de Champlain who brought them to Europe, described them as tasting like artichokes. They lack starch so the carbohydrates can be difficult to digest and produce wind. But it is because of this carbohydrate (Inulin) that they are very good for healthy intestines. Jerusalem Artichokes resemble root ginger and are nutty in flavour, they can be eaten raw or cooked. When purchasing choose firm ones with a smooth exterior (this makes them easier for peeling). Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. When peeling they discolour so place them in a bowl of water with lemon juice. Raw they have a crisp texture like water chestnuts, making them good finely sliced or in thin strips in salads or stir fries. To cook: sauté, steam, deep-fry, roast or bake, be careful not to overcook as the collapse easily. Jerusalem Artichokes are delicious roasted with their skin on or try them peeled in boiling coconut milk with ginger or as part of a gratin. One of my favourite side dishes to game and steak or served as a snack is a mixture of root vegetable crisps (game chips). To prepare "Game Chips" thinly slice your choice of root vegetables (parsnips, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichokes, all work well) then fry them in a deep fryer at 160°C for a few minutes then drain them and cook them for a second time at 190°C for a couple of minutes until they rise to the top and they are crisp, drain them on kitchen toweling and season with a little salt and pepper. Why no try this months recipe for "Jerusalem Artichoke, Apple and Stilton".

Cauliflower is widely available, it's delicious boiled up and covered with belchamel sauce and served along side comforting dishes such as salt beef. It also makes a great creamy puree, which makes an excellent accompaniment with pan fried scallops.

Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Spring Greens and many more green leaf vegetables are filling the shelves in the supermarkets and are great value in the markets. Savoy cabbage is good steamed or boiled, tossed with diced bacon and served with game or shred the outer leaves finely and deep fry them and sprinkle over a little salt, sugar and five spice powder and served as Chinese deep fried seaweed (great served with spicy grilled or deep fried tiger prawns or noodle dishes). Try Brussels sprouts boiled and tossed with a little ginger and garlic or shred them and stir fry them, spring green's also work well when stir fried. Freshly boiled broccoli florets taste delicious with anchovies, make an anchovy sauce by combining finely chopped anchovies with olive oil and a little lemon juice or mix with butter.


Ugli Fruit, Limes, Lemons, Grapefruit, Blood Oranges, Mandarins and many more varieties of citrus fruits are in the stores this month. When I was a child sliced wedges of grapefruit sprinkled with plenty of caster sugar was my favourite breakfast. It maybe the wrong time of year for it but freshly squeezed mixed citrus fruit mixed with rum and sugar syrup or caster sugar makes a wicked "rum punch".Oranges originated in China and Northern India, they first came to Europe via trade with Moorish Spain, with the Seville orange a bitter variety suitable for cooking eg. Seville Marmalade, and the zest for fish and meat stews. In the 16th century they were highly prized with nobility building special greenhouses for them known as Orangeries, the trees in these bore little fruit but produced an exquisite fragrance from their blossoms. The sweet varieties of oranges grow well in warm Mediterranean and Sub Tropic environments, so thrive in Australia. Orange seeds were brought to Sydney Cove with the first fleet and within 12 years orange trees were growing in Bridge street. Marmalade made from oranges or other citrus fruits is one of those traditional preserves that's lurking in one or many of our cookbooks. Citrus Tart, Citrus Soufflé,and Orange and Coconut cake are just a few of our citrus recipes.

Queensland strawberries, rough leaf pineapple, paw paw, kiwi fruit, Cape gooseberries, N.S.W.'s mulberries are all good this month.

Walnuts stirred into a little rich honey makes an unusual tasty accompaniment to a selection of cheeses. Walnut bread is a more traditional match to cheese, especially the soft and creamy. Finely sliced pears, toasted walnuts, crumbled stilton and baby spinach makes an excellent salad. Macadamias are also in season this month, coat fish with a combination of chopped macadamias, desicatted coconut and fresh breadcrumbs.

Going, Going, Gone .......

Apple and Pearseason comes to a close this month. While there is still a few apple varieties available later in the year, the excellent choice we have enjoyed over the last few months will diminish. Apples and Pears are delicious poached, why not try a spicy poaching stock with red wine, sugar, chills, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon and serve them in savoury salad or with pork rillete or pate or as a dessert with ice cream or creme fraiche, reduce the poaching liquid and serve it as a sauce with the apple or pear.