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Treading lightly on the earth

I define Cooking for a Siege as cooking with what we have available so we can sustain each other in difficult times. This approach has not only helped me through the recent times of pandemic lockdowns, serious illness, aging parents, isolation, and the sad loss of friends and family, but through cooking, I have also discovered a gentle hopeful purpose in the simple acts of feeding and eating giving me joy in a time of melancholy.

Cooking for a siege uses seasonal ingredients, produce from friends and neighbours, preserving not wasting, shopping local and organic, keeping traditional cultural dishes alive, and cooking at home instead of eating fast food and takeaway.

Since my last post, the Australian people have cast aside the politics of boofheads, selfishness, and division and have sent a climate change message that is impossible to ignore. The latest census shows we are a nation that is browner and younger than ever before with millennials overtaking boomers for the first time. The average Australian is now a millennial woman! This augers well for the planet and for the future. Maybe we can now lower the drawbridge and tentatively come out from behind the castle walls?

Perhaps not while wars are still raging. Wars of words, laws, bullets, bombs, jails, and veils. War on women, children, the poor, and the first peoples of the world, mongered by thugs and fundamentalists. And then there is the war we rage against the natural world.

This siege may be over (or are we in a ceasefire?) but we can't just go back to life as it was. These times of siege have given us space to look around, think, and consider. We carry in our hearts the feelings of loss and longing. It now feels possible to take on the big existential concerns of humanity.

The incessant rain on the eastern coast of our country has changed the availability and price of food we can or can't eat this winter. Floods have destroyed good crops in fertile soil. Across the globe, extreme weather is fierce, and unpredictable putting good food at risk and sending the most vulnerable into famine.

Cooking is a political act. What we eat, where it grows, how it is farmed and produced, and importantly, who controls its production, under what conditions, and for what purpose are some of the most fundamental questions in the world today. Cooking is also a collective and women-led action linked to culture and history. It is old and deep and connects us as people to the earth. We can reclaim this way of thinking about food and cooking and in doing so we will be more connected with each other and the planet on which we live.

So here are some winter recipes that tread lightly on the earth and taste delicious.

Sweet potato and lentil curry (thanks to lazy cat kitchen)

A yummy warming vegan and gluten-free dish for those cold winter days


1 cup of red lentils

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of grated ginger

a bunch of coriander, including the chopped stalks

a cup of chopped tinned tomatoes (or fresh)

2 medium sweet potatoes cut into small cubes

salt to taste

juice of 1/2 lime ( or lemon)

1 cup of coconut milk or cream

roasted cashews or coconut flakes to sprinkle on top


1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

a few grinds of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of masala

chili flakes to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan that will hold everything. When the oil is hot, add the black mustard seeds and wait until they start popping.

Then add the cumin seeds, and fry for a minute or so until the cumin releases its fragrance but don't let it burn.

Add the chopped onion, and sauté it gently, stirring from time to time until it is soft and a bit caramelised in places.

Add the garlic, ginger, and coriander stalks then reduce the heat to low and add all the ground spices ( except the garam masala). Stir and cook for a minute or two.

Add the chopped tomatoes and about a cup of water. Cook for around 5- 7 minutes.

Add the lentils, sweet potato and 2 cups (500ml) of water. Stir everything together.

Bring to the boil and simmer until the sweet potato is tender, the lentils are cooked and the curry thickens. ( if too dry, add more water)

Add the salt and coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the garam masala and the lime juice.

Serve with rice and topped with chopped cashews and coriander leaves.

Roast Brussel Sprouts and Mushrooms with balsamic vinegar

I made this with pine mushrooms that I picked near my mother's house in the Adelaide Hills. There are so many in the hills winter under the pine trees nestled amongst the pine needles. They might look a bit scary because they are bright orange but they are meaty and delicious.


In a roasting pan put whole brussel sprouts and chopped, cleaned pine mushrooms, and couple of roughly chopped garlic cloves.

Drizzle with plenty of good olive oil and coarse salt, black pepper and toss them together. Put in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for around 30 minutes or when the brussels sprouts are soft and a little crispy on the outside.

Dice an onion and fry in olive oil in a pan.

Mix them together, serve on a platter and drizzle with a very good genuine balsamic vinegar. Top with chopped parsley

Pumpkin, Orange, and Fennel Salad

A pile of pumpkins grew out of the compost in my garden this year and the renovations next door gave them so much light, I harvested around seven big ones. This recipe is for a winter salad using winter ingredients that are easy to find this time of year.


1 medium butternut pumpkin

olive oil

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds

salt to taste

3 cloves of garlic

4 oranges

a bunch of rocket


1/3 lemon juice to 2/3 olive oil

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons maple syrup

salt and black pepper

Cut the pumpkin into pieces about 2cm squares, leaving the skin on.

Put the pumpkin and fennel seeds into a baking tray, toss it in plenty of olive oli and sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 200 degrees until the pumpkin is soft and slightly burnt on the edges.

Slice the fennel in very thin slices using a sharp knife or a mandolin.

Peel the oranges so there is non white pith and then slice them thinly as well.

Tear the rocket into smaller pieces.

Once the pumpkin is cooked and cooled, put all the ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss together. Let the juice of the orange mix through the other ingredients.

When you are ready to serve, pour on enough dressing to coat everything.

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I love love love this post. ‘Cooking is a political act’ - Yes!

+ more fabulous recipes.


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