Spring in the Barossa is without a doubt one of the most beautiful combinations of natural timing; the freshness of temperature has a very welcome warmth to it after Winter's chill, and the shock of green that heralds new growth on bare branches in vineyards and orchards is something that still makes me pull over to the side of the road for a moment, to have the chance to really take it all in - even after all these years - I'm aware of the brevity of Spring's happy collision of sights and smells.
What's In Season
If we were all able to enjoy the luxury of wandering into our own garden and orchard, here's what Spring would have in store for us to base our fresh seasonal cooking around…
The excitement of making our cider actually reminds me of my plan 40 years ago when we first came to the Barossa. I’m sure many of you know that it was Colin’s vision to farm pheasants that led us to leave Sydney, my original hometown, to come to South Australia and buying an existing vineyard (after several hickups of course) the Barossa found us and we began farming the pheasants which led to our whole food journey. However, it was only while making cider, when I was checking on the final ferment that I admitted that my original plan had been to study Oenology at Roseworthy College when we came to South Australia. The fact that I’d left school at 14, the fact that any physics and chemistry I had studied up to then was totally inadequate for winemaking meant that it actually never happened, and the luck of my life was that I found what I wanted to do more than anything else, purely out of necessity, given we were farming pheasants and no one knew how to cook them and it was second nature to me. The rest is history.
Whenever the first chance strikes to head outside and take in some Spring sunshine, I'm there! Regardless of whether we manage to get through an entire meal al fresco, I love starting a Spring menu with drinks and nibbles outside before sitting down to lunch. Here's a favourite of mine at the moment, making the very best use of the freshness of limes with Verjuice.
There's nothing quite like the newfound warmth in the weather to encourage a movement to the outdoors, even if it's simply for a drink before lunch to take in the beautiful seasonal changes as Spring steps in. I really love the ease of pre-lunch drinks when you have a jar of dukkah in the pantry. It couldn't be simpler to add a bowl of extra virgin olive oil and some crusty bread to the table while wine is being opened, and call canapés done.
Shelling peas is definitely a job to be shared around the kitchen table. As a child, I remember putting more in my mouth that in the pot. This never seemed to bother my mother – I’m sure she was a lot smarter about these things than I was at the time. The best possible pea comes directly from the garden in the warmth of the afternoon. The sugar content of peas picked this way is enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth. I’m sure any mother could persuade a recalcitrant child to eat greens like this. Who needs to cook greens anyway? Raw green peas – pods and all, if they are young enough – are a delight when eaten straight from the garden.