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Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

Chorizo recipes

Where would Spanish cuisine be without the chorizo? This versatile smallgood lends its big flavours to South American stews, soups, and salads, not to mention the ultimate hot dog. Let the sizzling begin.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

Jackalope hotel opens on the Mornington Peninsula

Glamour, sophistication and luxury have arrived on the Peninsula, with a crack-team of staff assembled to make it a success.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Pea and ham soup

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Winners

Every year, we produce the Australian Hotel Guide to scout the country for the very best in hotels: from city to country, coast to coast, club sandwich to club sandwich. We check into reviewed hotels anonymously and pay our own way. What we experience at these top Australian addresses is the same as what you, our readers, would experience. No special treatment; no added extras. Just honest, informative reviews of the best hotel experiences around the country. It's time to get packing. Pick up a copy of our 2017 Hotel Guide with our June issue, out now.

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

May

There has been such an abundance of produce in recent months. My tomatoes have yielded litres and litres of roasted tomato sauce, and for weeks I've been enjoying a tomato bruschetta or salad most days. Melbourne's extraordinary late heatwave encouraged more fruit on the eggplant bushes and prolific crops of chillies, and I found it difficult to keep up with picking the climbing beans before they turned into overgrown specimens. In fact, some did, and I think I'll experiment with them as shelling beans.

I also have a proper crop of shelling beans drying on a hessian bag. The yellow papery pods contain small beige beans with coffee-coloured markings. I was given seeds of these by Lina Siciliano of Rose Creek farm. They're known as madamola in Sicilian dialect. Lina picks them and freezes them and either uses them for wintry bean dishes or saves them to replant in the spring. I'll use them to make a minestrone once the weather cools down.

I needed to research something other than ratatouille to use my glut of green capsicum. As autumn settled in it was not very likely my crop would do much more colouring, but even though the flesh was still green these capsicum had soaked up so much sunshine they were sweet rather than bitter. With the skin scorched on the barbecue and lifted off, capsicum are also more digestible. The fleshier the peppers are, the better they will be.

Roasted peeled green capsicum have so much character they'd be good paired with something with a powerful flavour, such as grilled octopus or grilled chorizo. I cast my mind back to memories of a lunch cooked in a cazuela by a Spanish friend. It started with sections of green capsicum, olive oil and a handful of whole home-grown garlic cloves. After about half an hour, with a bit of gentle shaking now and then, the capsicum and garlic were soft and caramelised, and the capsicum skins just slid off at the first touch of a fork. My friend added a jointed chicken, but without the chicken this combination would make an excellent bruschetta.

I turned to Paula Wolfert's book Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, and loosely followed her suggestion for a warm salad: a salad based on home-grown, roasted peeled green capsicum mixed with crushed garlic and chopped very ripe tomatoes and seasoned with preserved lemon flesh, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper. I left it for half an hour to allow the olive oil to mingle with all the other flavours. It was absolutely superb, and the slivers of preserved lemon added the special touch.

I'm still using segments of preserved lemon from a batch I made and stored in a two-litre plastic bucket two years ago: this should give comfort to those who worry about the longevity of their preserves. My preserved lemons have long since ceased to be yellow. They're bronze and set solid in a jelly of their own salty juices. I have to prise a piece from the mass, and the preserved peel is very, very fragile, like very old fabric: the flavour, though, is unbelievable.

Elsewhere in the garden my six Tolley's upright olive trees are in place, and I hovered over them during the heatwave, heaving buckets of water over them and sending positive messages that they could survive it. So far so good. This year my small espaliered Jonathan apple tree produced three fruit. The possums tried the first two, but I ate the third and it was crisp and tart and delicious. My pears would never win any beauty prizes. The skins were rough and shapes bumpy, and there were just six of them. But peeled and sliced and accompanied by some shavings of good parmesan they were a treat.

I've gathered my almonds and shelled them. My study overlooks the sunny front garden, and I watched one day as a stranger stood for five minutes picking the almonds from my tree. I couldn't bear the embarrassment of accosting him, but it did make me decide to harvest the remaining crop the next morning.

I'm starting to plan the presentations I will make in Ireland later this month. I've been invited to speak at the Taste Council of Ireland's summer school at Ballymaloe in Cork. Although the Taste Council is mostly concerned with promoting food education in the secondary sector, they're interested in the experience I've had in developing the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, which provides fun education to primary schoolchildren on food and gardening.

The Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong recently released the national evaluation report it conducted on the Kitchen Garden Foundation. The report found that the foundation was making a real difference to children, families and school communities participating in the program. (The full report is available on the Kitchen Garden website.)

When I travel to Ireland it will be early spring, such a beautiful time to be in Europe. I'll have a few days in Paris afterwards, and will make sure that amongst the eating and drinking there'll be walking in several parks to appreciate the season. I'll return to Melbourne to see the last of the falling of the leaves.

Until then.

More info

For more information on Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation and schools, check out her website.

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