Food to nourish the soul

It’s different now, watching the winter roll in.  My childhood days were spent in Victoria in the Gippsland area and by the time May rolled around, I remember mum would have me rugged up from head to toe before we’d make our way across town to my Baba and Diddi’s my grandparents place on a Saturday morning. 

I’d have known we’d arrived even if I was blindfolded.  My Diddi was a proud Ukrainian, and spent hours in his garden.  The earth smelt of compost, rich dirt, grass still wet from the morning dew and the air was always heavy with the scent of vine ripened tomatoes.  I remember jumping out of the car – gumboots at the ready, and rushing to help with whatever chore was being rolled out.

I’d gently dig the potatoes out for Baba to make verenyky with (potato & pastry dumplings).  And just before winter really hit, we’d always harvest beetroot for borscht.   

These days, as mid-year approaches, my nose is never pink from cold, and I don’t have to put four layers on my top half before leaving the house.  That’s the beauty of the Sunshine Coast, and why I’ll never leave. 

But what hasn’t changed is way the start of winter brings in food I’d all but forgotten about; food that nourishes my soul. 

We miss some of the good stuff here – like horseradish grown from peelings tossed out the back door after dinner– and I can never seem to grow big heritage tomatoes like my Diddi – but the beetroot’s right at home on Sunshine Coast soil.  It smells just as earthy, and still partners beautifully with balsamic, honey, goats cheese and walnuts.  It’s perfectly crunchy served as chopped matchsticks in a salad; pickled; or cooked down as a relish. 

Another of my all-time favourite winter vegetables is the humble cauliflower.  Too often relegated it’s place as soggy cauliflower cheese for Monday roast night at the RSL – this one’s a shining star all of it’s own if you’ll give it a chance.  Best mates with truffle oil, simmer it slowly with just enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover, add lashings of cream and butter as you season and puree it into what’s set to become your new favourite soup.  Drizzle with truffle oil to serve. 

These past weeks have been filled with tweaks and changes to my menu’s to suit the changing produce and I have to say; while I’m sorry to say goodbye to the summer sun, I do look forward to rugging up a bit as I tuck into some warm winter stews and homemade pies.  And I’d like to forage this winter like I did as a kid.  I’m yet to go mushroom hunting in Queensland, but I bet I could find somewhere if I tried.  Winter might just be made for reliving memories and eating the food you did when you were 8.  And gumboots.  Winter was invented for gumboots.