it was a chelsea morning

Mandarin & Lavender Almond Butter

When things start getting too big in my head there are certain songs that can manage to hold the expanding edges for a minute. It’s a lovely thing about music. And the big things I’m talking about are not happening in a ‘woe is me’ kind of way, more like just a ‘whoa slow down please’ kind of way. One of the current big things is time (I can’t be the only one freaking out at how quickly things are spinning huh?). As in, how can this year’s almond blossom be cotton-tailing it all over the Valley when last year’s haul of almonds are still sitting in their shells in a basket in the kitchen? I only just picked those. Who nabbed that year that falls somewhere in between? I’d like to share it please. Even if I could get just a little bit so my brain doesn’t hurt trying to figure out the time space continuum. Craziness.

To songs. And in particular to Joni Mitchell. She softens the edges on all big things so after seeing the first of the season’s almond blossoms over the weekend, I decided we’d have a little Chelsea Morning out on the hill. Milk and toast and honey, and a bowl of oranges too. I can’t recall her mentioning mandarin and lavender almond butter in her lyrics, but that joined the scene as well. It was the fastest way I could think of to get rid of the evidence from last year’s almond harvest before this year’s were being picked. In a minute or so.


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Mandarin & Lavender Almond Butter

makes 1 cup



1 cup organic raw almonds

peel of 1 organic mandarin

3-4 heads of fresh organic lavender

pinch sea salt (optional)

drizzle of sweet almond oil


Add the dry almonds to the bowl of a food processor and blitz for 10 minutes. You might need to scrape the almond meal from the sides but this is all you need to worry about to make any kind of nut butter. It’s way easier than you might first think. Good news.

Bad news is, your food processor might get a little weary if it’s as old as mine, so rest it every 3 minutes or so to avoid burning out the motor.

Once the almond meal has started to come together in a paste, you can add a little drizzle of almond oil if you’d like it to be a bit runnier, and then add the mandarin peel and lavender flowers.

I just went with what I had on hand, you can seriously flavour nut butters with whatever takes your fancy, or just add a pinch of salt and leave it as a pure nutty taste. Either way, super good for you.

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hoping for the best

Wood Roasted Purple Carrots with Fresh Borlotti Beans

We trialled some borlotti beans in the garden this year. Ha, listen to me, “trialled”. Like everything we plant in our veggie patch isn’t a ‘throw it to the wind and hope for the best’ kind of endeavour. Sometimes we end up with food on our plates and sometimes the runner ducks or earwigs get in first. That’s just the way things roll out here on the hill, and we’re good with that. But when we end up at the table with plates piled high from produce we have planted, tended, weeded, chatted to and finally picked, there’s always a special pause before we tuck in. A little space for the timeline that landed the seeds we planted in front of us, months on, in totally different outfits to how they went into the ground. Some kind of magic later and we’re eating bright pink beans and deep purple carrots.

How insanely beautiful is the borlotti? I haven’t really had much of a chance to get to know them in their fresh guise, more so from the can, and although they taste good either way, that stunning colour palette, both before they’re shelled and after, made me rethink this little bean. Why not make it the star of a dish rather than sending it to the corp? I’ll tell you why. Because that tricky little minx sheds its fabulous technicolour dreamcoat when it’s cooked. Oh well. Still tastes colourful.

And just in case, some gnarly purple carrots went in too. These guys wouldn’t win a beauty contest, but again, so delicious you could never hold it against them. Yummy winter fare that happily roasted away in our wood fired oven while we worked in the garden until the sun set, putting up tiny fences to keep our new clutch of chicks from eating the fennel before it even hints at being bulblike. We figure ‘hoping for the best’ works better with a bit of a barrier between what’s edible and what’s eating it.


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Wood Roasted Purple Carrots with Fresh Borlotti Beans

I did intend to add the purple beans from the photograph into this dish too but I ate them raw while I was cooking. It couldn’t be helped.


1 bunch organic heirloom purple carrots

300g organic borlotti beans

1 bunch organic marjoram

1 bunch organic lemon thyme

organic extra virgin olive oil

1 organic meyer lemon

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper


polenta to serve


Wash the carrots really well. Really well. They are notorious for hiding grit in their purple skin so well worth being slightly obsessive about this step.

Cut them into bite sized chunks and put into an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and scatter stripped marjoram and lemon thyme leaves over the top. Season with sea salt and pepper and roast for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. It took longer in our woodfired oven but in a conventional oven it probably wouldn’t need much more than an hour.


If you can get fresh borlotti beans then you can add them to the roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil for the last 30 minutes of cooking time. If using canned then you’ll only need to heat them through so 15 minutes would be plenty. If using dried, soak and boil them, then add them for the last 15 minutes to make them a little nuttier.


When cooked, remove from oven and stir to bring some of the richly flavour oil from the bottom of the pan to coat the vegetables. Add extra fresh marjoram and lemon thyme, squeeze the juice of the meyer lemon over the top and serve with polenta. Hearty.

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