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With its longer and sunnier days, spring is the perfect time to grow warm-weather loving plants such as tomatoes in your garden.

To get the best crop, plant the seedlings in an area where they will get full sun but be protected from strong winds, it is recommended you fertilise the soil and do not to plant the tomatoes in the same spot two years in a row, in order to prevent the accumulation of disease in the soil. The plants will also benefit from mulching. Tomatoes will also grow well in pots if you use a top-quality potting mix. Water the plants regularly and fertilise only when the plants begin to flower. Tomatoes turn red when they are ripe and ready to be picked.

We think nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked vine-ripened tomato. Simply slice and add to a salad or place on top of a dry biscuit to create a juicy and tasty treat.

What tips do you have for growing tomatoes? What are your favourite recipes for tomatoes?

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Children having a picnicIt’s Spring Racing Carnival time! Even if you are not a race goer, it’s still spring and that means it is time to be outdoors! The weather is perfect for packing a picnic, whether it’s to your local park or for a day out at the races. There are lots of delicious and simple-to-prepare dishes that you can make which will only need one hand to consume – leaving the other free to hold a book, a fishing rod or even a glass of bubbly.

One idea is to make the Layered Picnic Loaf on p. 156 of The Food Book. Consisting of a whole loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with layers of tasty ingredients – it is the perfect picnic fare. Another idea is the open sandwich – the topping possibilities are endless – you can have beans and artichoke; smoked salmon and avocado; or even pear and blue cheese. For even more suggestions have a look at pp. 154-155 in The Food Book.

An open sandwich

Spring is also time to try some new recipes. Have you tried making capsicum and cheese bites? They are simple to make and can be easily stored.

Ingredients

  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1 yellow capsicum
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto (try the recipe on p. 431 of The Food Book or a commercial variety)
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ricotta
  • 16 basil leaves


Method

  1. Combine pesto, cream cheese and ricotta cheese together and set aside.
  2. Cut both the red and yellow capsicums lengthwise into 2.5 cm strips.
  3. Cook capsicum strips under a hot grill until skin blisters, and then remove and cover with plastic wrap until they cool. Peel away the skin and discard.
  4. Place the capsicum strips on a chopping board and position a basil leaf in the centre of each strip.
  5. Place approximately one teaspoon of pesto mixture end of each capsicum strip and roll up and secure with a toothpick.
  6. Refrigerate prior to serving.

What simple ideas do you have for foods to pack for the Spring Racing Carnival or to take on a quiet picnic?

With spring in the air, we should take advantage of the bountiful crops of juicy citrus fruits that are now ready to be picked and made into some delicious goodies!

Lemons are a wLemons with savoury flavoursonderful fruit. We usually associate it with deliciously tangy desserts, but did you know that it can also be used in a variety of savoury dishes? Lemons go very well with ingredients such as avocado, seafood, chilli, mint and salad leaves — have a try at some of these flavour combinations yourself!

A sumptuous lemon curd is also very easy to make — it is simple, yet can make an impressive and delicious gift when poured into a jar and tied with a ribbon. Lemon curd can be used as a topping for pikelets, pavlovas or pancakes; a refreshing spread between cake layers; on English muffins or toast. You can even use it as filling for shortcrust pastry tartlets and top it with raspberries — absolutely delicious! Try out the simple lemon curd recipe on p.444 of The Food Book. You may also substitute lemons for oranges or mandarins for something different.

Lemons can also make a refreshing drink. Try making a Lime and lemonade crush (serves 4)

Ingredients

Juice of 3 lemonsLime and Lemonade Crush

Juice of 3 limes

1 lemon, washed and finely sliced

1 lime, washed and finely sliced

3 cups water

¾ cup caster sugar

Crushed ice

2 tablespoons mint leaves, finely sliced

Method

  1. Place juice of limes and lemons, water and caster sugar in saucepan and cook over a low heat for 5-6 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour mixture over sliced lime and lemon in jug.
  3. Refrigerate for four hours or until chilled.
  4. To serve, pour over crushed iced and sprinkle with mint leaves.