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Let’s take a step back in time – my 21st Birthday. I got together with my friends and went to a well known (and still around) vegetarian restaurant. Cooking and eating food made only with plants has been something I’ve always been interested in.

Now I grow all my own vegetables and look for many ways to serve them. I ferment, I pickle, I cook and eat them raw. I am always on the lookout for meals that have vegan recipes that I can share with my non-vegan friends. This has led me to a plant-based menu for some of my harvest lunches. You will regularly find vegan harvest lunches on my calendar of events.

A plant-based diet doesn't mean a quick cooking process. I start with dolmades filled with freekeh wrapped in beetroot leaves that I fermented over the winter. Lots and lots of garden mint to season.

To add an extra kick to my fermentation, I regularly add kimchi (I’m getting in the kitchen this afternoon to start one).

Seasonally I follow with tofu stuffed zucchini flowers with a side of fresh tomato relish. If the season does allow fresh zucchini flowers, I add fried green tomatoes. Pasta  is made with locally ground whole wheat flour and wild garden greens. Occasionally, it may be nasturtium flavoured pasta – spice and a little bit zingy.

I grow yacon in the garden. It is a sweet-tasting tuber plant that is good for gut health, high fibre, but low in calories. From the Yacon, I make a yacon and date cake – vegan, process sugar-free, gluten-free. This goes well with a sorbet made from the babaco tree, a cold climate paw paw. Babacos are sour but not sharp – like lemon. They taste like good champagne hence they are known as champagne fruit. 

To finish a meal, there are my own fruit pastilles made with fresh juice and pectin. There is always milk alternatives in the fridge to have with coffee and all the teas. I might even make a pot of fresh herb tea!

Menu for a Vegan Harvest Lunch

Freekeh beetroot dolmades, fresh kimchi

Zucchini flowers filled with whipped tofu, fresh garden herbs. Fresh tomato relish

Fresh whole wheat hand-cut nasturtium pasta, wild green salad

Yacon & date cake with champagne fruit sorbet

Fruit pastilles, Jacican wine spritzers, tea coffee

Vegan harvest lunches are held throughout the year at Jacican and will only serve food suitable for a vegan diet. Vegan harvest lunches at Jacican can be booked on scheduled dates, or as private functions throughout the year.

As a chef, I am always looking for new recipes, different ways to cook things and how I can adapt a recipe to suit everyone. This has led me down a path of creating a lot of recipes that don’t contain gluten. But a non-gluten-free person wouldn’t know the difference.

The last harvest lunch I held, there were two guests, from two different bookings, both requested gluten-free. This meant a three-course gluten-free meal, that the non-gluten-free guests didn’t realise was gluten-free. Full of flavour, direct from the garden and still with the mouth crunch expected.  

Let’s start with seasonal zucchini flowers filled with fresh ricotta. Coated in cornflour, buttermilk, and cornmeal. They will take a little while, as we have to make the ricotta first. There is always tomatoes here, seasonal or out of a Vacola jar out of season, so fresh tomato relish on the side seasoned with as much garlic as you like and a little bit of Mirboo honey.

Gluten-free sour cream pastry. It’s a little bit crumbly but ideal to top off a tatin of new potatoes. Served with slow-roasted Gippsland beef, wild garden greens and the vegetables you have pick yourself form the garden.  

Recently I have gotten into making choux pastry. As mentioned  above ‘could I make it gluten-free?’ The answer: Yes, I can.

Profiteroles are a cake that many gluten-free guests thadn’t had in a while before they made it themselves in a harvest lunch. It is filled with fresh cream, homemade lemon curd and served with jersey milk ice-cream. As we make the ice-cream from scratch, it contains no fillers or setting agents, hence no gluten.  

After all this food, I don’t think the non-gluten-free guest will realise they have gone without.

Example menu for a gluten-free harvest lunch menu

Zucchini flowers filled with fresh jersey milk ricotta, fresh garden herbs. Fresh tomato relish

Potato tatin, Gippsland beef, wild green, seasonal garden vegetable – cook to enhance their seasonal qualities

Profiteroles, lemon curd, and seasonal jersey milk ice cream

Jacican wine spritzers, tea coffee

Gluten-free harvest lunches are held throughout the year at Jacican and will only serve food suitable for a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free harvest lunches at Jacican can be booked on scheduled dates, or as private functions throughout the year.

Jacican harvest lunch is a celebration of all that Gippsland and my kitchen garden has to offer.

For your harvest lunch, you will arrive at 11am. As you walk up the ramp into Jacican, I will greet you and offer a tea or coffee while we wait for all the guests to arrive.

welcome to jacican

Once everybody is assembled, I take you into the teaching kitchen. On the bench is an apron for your use, a take-home recipe booklet with today’s menu, and water and nibbles. 

jacican teaching kitchen

I hand out baskets, scissors, knives and gardening gloves, and together we head off to our three-quarter-acre kitchen garden to pick the garden herbs, along with the fruit and vegetables for today’s lunch. 

visit the Jacican kitchen garden

Every day, I pick the produce that I need from the kitchen garden, watching the lifecycle of the garden. All my produce is grown using organic principles, without the use of herbicides and pesticides. This method of gardening means my produce is flavourful and just how nature intended it to be. It does, however, leave me open to the elements, meaning uniform shapes and sizes cannot always be achieved – an aspect of my garden story that I am proud of.

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As a young girl, I would read the cookbooks that mum kept in the bottom kitchen drawer. As there was always flour, butter, milk, and eggs in the house, I was continuously searching for new recipes to bake. As a girl I would make spend my weekend kneading, folding and baking puff pastry to make tarts, creating new versions of candies and baking all the colour rainbow cakes. This is where I got my drive to learn the techniques to make the perfect French fruit flan. Sweet short crust pastry, diplomat cream, topped with fresh fruit and clear cake glaze.

Learn to make a French Fruit tart at Jacican

At Jacican, I make all my pastry from scratch, spending up to three days making fresh puff pastry – one day to make the detrempe, the second day to do the first two folds then rest overnight and the third day to fold and turn twice more. From there, it can become vanilla slice!

Vanilla slice made from fresh puff pasty at Jacican

On the up-side, the rough puff pastry only takes 20 minutes. A quick pastry that you can make in the afternoon, then bake for dinner.

Choux pastry has recently become a favourite, frequently making an appearance on the harvest lunch menu as dessert (with fresh curd and ice-cream). I’ve even worked out a gluten-free version of profiteroles.    

Making lollies came about when cooking with my niece. She wanted to learn how to make musk sticks and so did I. Now there’s musk sticks, boiled lollies, caramels and chocolates coming out of my kitchen regularly.

make your own box of lollies

Not everything I bake contains flour, sugar or animal products. As a chef, I am always on the look out for new ways to bake things and new recipes to write and make. This has led me to develop my own recipes for gluten-free and vegan cakes, using fresh fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden and no-gluten. There are even a few recipes I share in gluten-free baking that are sugar-free as well.

Passion Cake with Almond Cream

If you can’t make it to any of the scheduled pastry classes, I am happy to host a private pastry class of your choice any time you like. This includes macarons and dome desserts.

Book a private dome dessert making class at Jacican

Let’s get together and bake!

Jaci

Each preserve I make at Jacican is 12 months in the making – planning each year’s harvest, nurturing the kitchen garden to prove its bounty, picking the fruit and vegetables the moment they are at their best, and taking that moment to create my unique range of preserves. Preserving is seasonal, which is why I make jam when I can.

Learn to make jam at Jacican

This first fruit of the year in my kitchen garden is the berries, peaches, and plums, meaning jam, breaking out the Vacola and lots and lots of my hot plum sauce. 

Making plum hot sauce at Jacican

Each year, I grow from seeds, upwards of 100 tomato plants, all the different shapes, sizes, and colours, along with zucchinis and cucumbers. With the fresh young greens, fruit relishes are made, followed closely by the long cook chutneys and sauces. Most years, it is unlikely you will find a ‘normal’ red tomato in my garden, leading me to develop sweet black tomato chutney and black tomato sauce. 

Jaci in kitchen garden at Jacican

As I come to the end of autumn, quinces appear from the neighbours. Many, many quinces. Jelly and paste are made to serve with cheese or pickled to go with roast dinner. 

Quince jelly

The cooler months produce citrus – lemons, orange, limes, and cumquats. Marmalades and butter curds emerge from the kitchen, along with brandy-soaked fruit for a little tipple later. If I’ve had my planting right this is closely followed by the brassicas, meaning buckets of sauerkrant and kimchi can be found fermenting on the kitchen bench. 

lemon marmalade

The start of spring identifies the start of the kitchen garden lifecycle, with the elderflower the first tree to bloom. I will pick a bucket of blooms, soak in  juice for a few days and then I have elderflower cordial. By now in the year, I am looking forward to planting next year’s seeds, watching and waiting for the kitchen garden life-cycle to being again for another year. 

Jaci picking elderflower

If you would like to learn about my kitchen garden life-cycle and make your own preserves, join me for these very seasonal preserves making cooking classes.

See you all in the kitchen!

Jaci

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32 Giles Street, Mirboo North Victoria 3871
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PO Box 156, Mirboo North Victoria 3871
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