Down the Garden Path: Discover the Ainslie Food Cookbook, and steam-punk garden

Susan Parsons
Yvette and David Salt with a pot of mint at their Ainslie steam-punk garden.
Yvette and David Salt with a pot of mint at their Ainslie steam-punk garden. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Canberra's kitchen gardeners will find plenty to see, do and learn at Down the Garden Path, which is a fundraising event being held at Ainslie on Sunday, September 20.

Corroboree Park will come alive from 11am to 3pm and you will be able to indulge in cake, coffee and lunch, hear about sustainable gardening ideas, bees, worms and local history, and listen to music from local school bands. It is a fundraising event (entry: adults $10, children free) run by Ainslie School P&C to be used for improving outdoor interactive play spaces.

On the day, you will be able to taste recipes from the soon-to-be-launched Ainslie Food Cookbook put together over two years by a group of dedicated parents. Two of them, Nova Inkpen and Libby Bailey, have shared their recipes (see below). Ingredients include those from the school kitchen gardens and green canteen.

David and Yvette Salt are opening their garden as part of the event. It contains an example of "Ainslie steam punk", a wall covered with rusty pipes, tools and metal fragments forming a jigsaw maze.

David and Yvette Salt's steam punk wall.

David and Yvette Salt's steam punk wall. Photo: Jamila Toderas

David says this garden sculpture melds recycled materials with different shades of heritage gardening, an experimental fusion of plant and technology. He likes the whimsy and invention in Ainslie garden corners found in Down the Garden Path. The Salts' back gate is forged twisted steel made by South Coast blacksmith artist Hans Brosch.

Five Canberra families have lived on the site since 1940. A row of 33 ornamental plum trees is 40 years old and they overhang the footpath, welcoming passers-by to reach up and harvest the fruit. The house, designed by architect Kenneth Oliphant, is known as The Doll's House for its steeply pitched roof. David has lived there since 1988 and Yvette moved in during 2001 and their sons attend Campbell High and Ainslie School.

David has been a prolific tomato grower and, with a mate, sold heritage tomato seedlings for years at Ainslie School fete. In recent years, he was defeated in battles with possums and rats, the latter arriving when the family started keeping chickens. Now upright railway keepers have been placed next to corners of raised garden beds and bird netting is stretched across the top to create an enclosed garden cage, resulting in good crops of potatoes, tomatoes, rocket, lettuce, garlic, chillies and strawberries. David believes that you need easy access to any vegetable growing area or you will never make good use of the bed and he says shade in mature gardens makes the growing of vegetables challenging.

An espaliered lemon tree forms one wall of the vegetable bed and there are cumquat, grapefruit, feijoa and fig trees in the garden as well as a tortured apple tree under one of a pair of large Chinese elms. The fig crop is lost to birds and bats. Among the herbs are chives, rosemary, parsley, mint and an old sage plant grows out of a metal pyramid.

Blood and bone? Garden sculpture surrounded by chervil.

Blood and bone? Garden sculpture with chervil. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Bleached skulls of horse, sheep and kangaroo and fragments of bones collected on country rambles are found in the garden and walkways and paths are made from recycled Canberra red bricks, railway and pine sleepers.

A rainwater tank is used for hand watering of pots and smaller garden beds and a compost heap supplements the garden soil. All garden waste is recycled into a compost wall created on the inside of a mature cypress hedge and this makes a frame over which ivy grows. The boys' tree house extends over a shed and the adjoining plum tree and there is a Tardis telephone booth in the garden. Calling all Canberrans interested in exploring the byways of Ainslie.


PJ's muffins by Nova Inkpen.

Photo: Supplied

PJ's muffin recipe

1 egg
¾ cup milk
½-¾ cup vegetable oil
280g plain flour
125g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder


1 mashed ripe banana
½ bag caramel bits
zest of 1 lemon or orange
shake of spice – cinnamon or nutmeg
1 handful nuts
chopped chocolate pieces
300g frozen berries
replace 30g flour with Dutch cocoa
raspberries with dark and white chocolate
mango pieces and white chocolate
pear and coconut

Preheat the oven 180C. Mix the egg, milk and oil together. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and add your preferred extras. Spoon into a greased muffin tin and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Submitter: Nova Inkpen

Mini sausage rolls by Libby Bailey.

Photo: Supplied

Mini sausage rolls

Makes around 84

2 brown onions
2 medium carrots
2 leeks, white and pale greens section only
1.5kg chicken mince
3 tsp crushed garlic
2 eggs
about 2 cups breadcrumbs – blitz 5 pieces toasted bread in food processor
½ cup chopped parsley
a good pinch dried mixed herbs
1 tsp salt and a good grind black pepper
7 sheets puff pastry
egg wash – 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk, to glaze

Place the onions, carrots and leeks in a food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl, add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cut each sheet of pastry in half. Place the filling mix lengthways on each piece of pastry and roll up. Refrigerate unbaked long sausage rolls for about 20 minutes before cutting each into six smaller rolls – pastry is difficult to cut if not chilled. Cut a couple of small slits in the top of each roll to avoid the filling oozing out the ends. Brush lightly with egg wash. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

Submitter: Libby Bailey (this is a recipe used in the Ainslie Primary School canteen – very popular and very yummy).

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.