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Autumn recipes

Comfort food and fun Easter eats feature in our collection of autumn recipes, featuring everything from an Italian Easter tart to carrot doughnuts with cream cheese glaze and brown sugar crumb and braised lamb with Jerusalem artichokes, carrots and cumin to breakfast curry with roti and poached egg.

Top 10 Sydney Restaurants 2014

Looking for the best restaurants in Sydney? Here are the top ten Sydney restaurants from our 2014 Australian Restaurant Guide.

Easter Baking Recipes

Dust off your mixing spoon, man your oven and have your eggs at the ready as we present some of our all-time favourite Easter baking recipes, from praline bread pudding to those all-important hot cross buns.

Italian Easter tart

"This is a traditional tart eaten in Naples at Easter," says Ingram. "The legend goes that a mermaid called Parthenope in the Gulf of Napoli would sing to celebrate the arrival of spring each year. One year, to say thank you, the Neapolitans offered her gifts of ricotta, flour, eggs, wheat, perfumed orange flowers and spices. She took them to her kingdom under the sea, where the gods made them into a cake. I love to add nibs of chocolate to Parthenope cake because I think it marries nicely with the candied orange and sultanas, but, really, do you need an excuse to add chocolate to anything?" Start this recipe a day ahead to prepare the pastry and soak the sultanas.

Top 10 Melbourne Restaurants 2014

Looking for the best restaurants in Melbourne? Here's our top ten from our 2014 Australian Restaurant Guide.

Apple and cinnamon hot cross buns

The mix of candied apple and dried apple combined with a sticky cinnamon glaze provides a new twist on an old favourite. These buns are equally good served warm on the day of baking, or several days later, toasted, with lashings of butter.

Momofuku's steamed buns

Australia's best take-away

We've hunted down some excellent eats-to-go to fuel your next picnic, lunch break or Tuesday night in...

September

With the almond tree in flower and nectarine in bud, Stephanie Alexander cuts back the capsicum bushes and cooks the cumquats down to jam.

We're nearly finished with winter and what a cold one Melbourne has had, but there are welcome signs that spring is on the way. The almond tree is in flower and the quince is in bud, as are the doughnut peaches, regular peach and nectarine.

For the first time in the 25 years I've lived in this house, my lemon tree went through a few months without any fruit.

It needed a big cutback and took quite a while to recover - happily the boughs are once again laden. Another near-casualty was my old wisteria vine. Over the years it had twined its way along the lacework of the verandah and coiled like a serpent around the iron verandah posts. It took hours to uncoil it so all the old iron could be replaced and repainted. What could be recovered has been restrung on a new wire, and while it's a shadow of its former self I'm delighted to say there are a few buds appearing. It will flourish again, and this time I'll train it away from spouts and verandah posts.

Outside my pantry window deep-blue hyacinths fill a window box. They're beautiful to look at, though I find their scent overpowering. From another window I can enjoy a very large orchid. It has long elegant sprays of primrose-yellow flowers that are a delight for at least a month. My gardener has hoisted the large pot onto my outside table so I can catch a glimpse of it every few minutes as I pass to and fro.

I made a successful batch of cumquat marmalade from my small tree. It amazes me how much fruit one small tree in a tub can produce - quite enough for me to pip, squeeze and cook a batch in my copper jam pan twice a year. I went to visit Maggie Beer for the weekend, and even though she's the queen of preserves, she doesn't make cumquat jam and she loves it, so it was the obvious choice for a gift.

Maggie and Colin have a new sunroom. Through the panes of glass the Meyer lemon trees were heavy with fruit, and a glorious potted hydrangea still had its leaves of gold and pink. Every now and then the glass panes were splashed with sudden rain, a reminder of the chilly world outside as we sat inside in the warm winter sunshine and caught up. How wonderful is longstanding friendship when one can talk about anything at all - worries, plans, holidays, children - and, of course, eat and drink some lovely things together: a venison pie, a new ice-cream flavour.

We spoke about the legacy of Peter Lehmann, the Barossa winemaker who was a legend in his lifetime, which has sadly just ended. He remains an inspiration to all in the wine industry and has passed his enthusiasm to his sons.

Back home I opened a 2005 Stonewell Shiraz in memory of Peter. And inspired by Maggie's Meyer lemons, I picked a few tangelos from my tree. The fruit juice was tart and delicious, but the smallness of the tree has proved once and for all that citrus don't thrive in the shade. The tree was moved and has flourished in its new location.

In the vegetable garden, leafy greens, brassicas, turnips and frilly salad leaves have survived winter. The capsicums have finally been cut back, but they held and ripened fruit well into July. The artichokes are bold and magnificent but yet to show fruit.

I'm often asked whether the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program offers support to schools with a vegetable garden but no kitchen. Growing vegetables and herbs is a valuable activity, but it doesn't show a child how to create simple delicious dishes that they can prepare for the rest of their life. Harvesting pupil-grown silverbeet will build pride and self-esteem, and increase the student's understanding of the environment, but it doesn't achieve the same result as showing a child how to roll and slice it, how to sauté it with olive oil and garlic, mix it with ricotta and use it to fill homemade pasta. The pride and delight that accompanies these activities is what will change behaviour for the longer term.

I demonstrated making one of the students' favourite dishes on a recent episode of MasterChef, a silverbeet, potato and ricotta torte. I've had many responses from parents and students telling me that they immediately had a go at making it. The filling is encased in a featherlight olive-oil pastry that's literally child's play to make.

Too much travelling leaves not enough time for gardening, though I think my energies will also be revived by spring's milder weather.

Until next time.

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