Summer is a season of such abundance and bright colour when it comes to food. The garden is giving us fresh tomatoes, zucchinis and herbs each day. I have also been picking wild elderberries, mulberries and blackberries from the farm for the freezer and drying cornflower and calendula petals for soap, tea and decorating cakes. I eagerly await the raspberries, green beans and quinces and delight in the variety and deliciousness of stone fruit available at our local green grocer and farmers markets. Here are some recipes in high rotation at the moment:
Tomato + Watermelon Salad
This has become a favourite salad of mine lately. It is the most beautiful combination of sweet and tart, fragrant and salty. A perfect accompaniment to baked fish or lamb or simply on its own.
1/4 wedge of a whole large watermelon (approx 2kg)
3 large, ripe tomatoes
100g fresh goats cheese or soft feta cheese
handful fresh mint
generous pinch of sea salt + cracked black pepper
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
Cut watermelon and tomatoes into similar sized cubes. Crumble goats cheese + roughly chopped fresh mint leaves on top. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salt with generous pinches of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Gently toss salad to combine and eat straight away...
Mango + Coconut Jellies (Gummies)
I have been making these jellies (gummies) and marshmallows a lot this summer in an attempt to use up seasonal fruit, but also boost our daily intake of grass-fed bovine gelatine - they make a delicious quick, refreshing, nutrient dense snack. The best gelatine powder I have tried is by Australian company Saturee or Nutra Organics.
pulp of 1 ripe mango
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grassfed bovine gelatine powder
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut milk (no additives)
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons grassfed bovine gelatine powder
1/2 cup water
To make the mango layer: sprinkle gelatine into a small bowl over 1/2 cup of water. The gelatine witll swell or "bloom" after a few minutes. Meanwhile blend fresh mango + orange juice in a small saucepan using a stick blender or similar. Bring fruit puree to a gentle simmer and stir in gelatine until dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a glass or ceramic dish. Chill in the freezer while you make the coconut layer.
To make the coconut layer: sprinkle gelatine into a small bowl over 1/2 cup of water. The gelatine will swell or "bloom" after a few minutes. Meanwhile gently heat coconut milk together with maple syrup. Whisk in gelatine until dissolved, should take a minute or two. Remove from heat and let it cool down for a few minutes.
Take mango layer out of the freezer and test that the top is "set". If so, pour the coconut milk layer over it and put the dish in the fridge (not the freezer this time!) until completely set. It usually takes an hour or so. Once completely set you can score the jellies into cubes or rectangles or any shape of your liking. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
** my boys LOVE these jellies; they hold their shape at room temperature so you can put them in a lunch box too **
Baked Ricotta Tarts with Nectarines and Honey
These are so simple and good. They make a lovely quick breakfast or mid morning snack - ricotta is full of protein and calcium, plus you get the goodness of eggs, honey and fresh fruit.
500g fresh firm ricotta
1/2 cup runny honey
zest from 1 orange
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-3 ripe nectarines (apricots, plums, peaches or berries work well too)
Preheat oven to 180'c. In a bowl whisk together ricotta, eggs, honey, zest and cinnamon. Grease (with melted butter) or line with paper some muffin tins; alternatively you can make one large tart in a 20cm cake tin. Spoon ricotta mixture into tins. Slice nectarines into thin wedges - I usually get about eight segments from each fruit. Place 1-2 segments into each tin over the ricotta. Top fruit with a little raw sugar if you like. Bake tarts for 20-30 minutes in the oven until the tops are golden. Cool completely - they will shrink a little and lift out more easily from the tins. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and consume within a week.
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to topping a pavlova and mine changes with the seasons. In summertime I really don't think there is a better combination than silky, ripe mango and juicy tart raspberries. I also love that in the rare case there are any leftovers, the flavour and texture of the fruit changes pleasantly after a day or two in the fridge - something that can't be said about brown bananas and rubbery grapes!
6 free-range egg whites at room temperature
pinch sea salt
1 cup or 180g white caster sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons arrowroot/tapioca flour or GF cornflower
2 cups pure cream (for whipping)
fruit of your choosing (I went for 1 large ripe mango + punnet of fresh raspberries)
** A scatter of dried cornflowers brings a delightful pop of edible colour **
Preheat oven to 180'c. In a clean bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using a handheld or electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Gently fold in vinegar, tapioca flour and vanilla.
Carefully spoon out mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. I like to heap my mixture into a circle about 22cm in diameter. Immediately turn the oven down to 150'c and bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the pavlova cool with the door slightly open (I wedge a wooden spoon between the door and the oven).
Whip cream and spread over the top of the cool pavlova. Adorn with summer fruit and devour with friends!
Twelve years growing a marriage and most of those spent learning how to farm regeneratively and raise little men, rising at dawn and retiring long after the sun has set. Not a day passes without a hearty conversation between us, and that's the privilege of living with your best friend; of sharing the best and worst of your selves and still feeling safe enough, loved enough to keep at it. We have gathered twelve years in our hands; seasons of comfort and difficulty, of joy and anticipation, of drought and abundance, of adventure and mundane life, gritty and awful, faithful, golden loveliness. We have worked hard to understand each other better, to listen, to hold carefully a thing that sometimes feels overwhelming fragile, or momentarily obscured. We are still leaning how to rest, to nurture what's separate, to invigorate the mingling. Marriage is play too, ridiculous and sweet. To grow a life together is not always to agree or know the way forward but to know you belong beside each other and that's enough. The path ahead is glittering faintly, and we're bound to fall short, to disappoint and delight, but there's promise too. So much goodness yet to come //
“The screen is the empty mirror where the simulated shadows of things relentlessly replace each other. In our craven fear of being forgotten, we remain glued to the empty window”
- John O'Donohue
A year ago I decided to quit instagram and facebook. To delete my six year history of posts and catalogue of carefully curated squares of lovely and hard life: things baked, clothes made, babies birthed, eggs cleaned, poems penned, plants tended to. I wrote a blog about the decision to quit here.
Thirteen months has given me room to ponder what it was I needed in that decision.
First and foremost it gave me a sense of agency to let go, and in actually letting go, I noticed how good it felt to make a decision for myself that other people wouldn't necessarily want or accept or even need for themselves. A friend said leaving instagram was like "coming home to herself" and I couldn't agree more.
I also needed the gift of space it afforded me. What happened in the space freed from spending hours every day on instagram and facebook? It was simply absorbed in the day (and night) as little pockets of moments between the chores and doing and going - to simply be: to pause, to take more care or a deeper breath. These pockets, like the best placed, generous pockets of a beloved dress or coat, are warm and homely. They are essential to being comfortable, safe even, in the middle of the mess and clamour and unpredictability of life. I am sure there are ways to carve out digital pockets that are relaxing and constructive, and perhaps writing and reading blog posts and long-format news pieces is mine, but it still pales in comparisons to the real life sun-on-your-face pockets of pause and breath. I wouldn't cut them out now for anything.
It has also given me a renewed appreciation for waiting, that easily neglected, yet necessary part of being human. I love Marnie Kennedy's reflections on waiting as a kind of prayerfulness:
"Instant knowledge, instant gratification, instant success are the messages of the media. However, waiting is of the essence of creatureliness and is the characteristic of genuine prayer, for it helps to purify the heart of impatience and consumer addiction. Waiting is in itself a deep place of revelation and leads to the unmasking of illusion, prejudice and fear"
I realised I could wait before taking a photograph of something beautiful or sharing something with friends or family. I could also wait before purchasing a new knitting pattern or ordering beautiful fabric to recreate something I'd see someone else make. I could wait before writing something that others would read in my newsletter, for ideas to come and go more gradually. I could also wait for feedback which didn't come very often and was perfectly alright to keep creating and contemplating without instantaneous feedback and encouragement. I can wait for relationships to simmer and grow in real time. I can wait - and am still waiting - for my body to heal from illness without any guarantee or when or how. I can wait with less instead of impatiently craving and cramming in more.
I'm sure you've come across these famous lines by Mary Oliver from her poem "Sometimes":
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it."
But what is she saying here? What does the whole poem speak of? Is it a glittery prompt to document our lived experiences for all to see? To labour over photographs and catchy descriptions on our digital devices? Or is it simply to remind herself - and us the readers - to sit with the present moment, however mundane or extraordinary, and drink it in. To savour the sublime ordinariness of grasshoppers and afternoon light, and the gifts of idleness and solitude, the messiness of faith and relationships. What if telling about it was just bearing witness to our own senses? To the stories and feelings of others in real time?
I used to live a life of squares
beautiful confines to capture
bread still steaming
children in play
kind of thing.
You saw what I saw
but you didn't see me
with my phone
body rigid and fingers
tapping the scene
What if paying attention
to my own body is the gift?
That it's enough to feel my senses
hold the present:
I live a life off-grid now
a beautiful freedom to
savour the seasons.
Mr 10-year-old wanted to have his two best mates over and camp under the oak trees, so with the loan of his kind auntie's tent it came to pass. There was much chatter and reading by torch light, movie watching and trampoline jumping and a rather unstable Minecraft inspired birthday cake complete with marshmallow "snow blocks", blue jelly "water blocks", chocolate cake "earth blocks" and marzipan creeper and pigs. We made it together and it was fun to create and deconstruct!
For as long as I have known and loved this child of mine he has been most himself, most relaxed outside. Surrounded by grasses and wide open sky and beetles and creatures of all sizes. I pray he will always return to the nature that brings him fresh perspective and peace, and know the love of the Creator behind it all.
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...