Sunday, 12 April 2015

Green Papaya Salad - vegetarian version

We have been away recently, travelling to South Australia for our nephew's wedding.
We had a wonderful time, seeing my husband's family, long time friends and watching the union of two beautiful young people.

Luckily the weather was good, warm days with cooler evenings.  When we arrived at Tullamarine in Melbourne and stepped out of the airport building, the winds blew a strong 100kmh so I patted hubby on the back and said "Welcome Home!"

My husband's family are predominantly Italian with a slight German factor and they all cook incredibly well, I did not lift a spatula all week.   Lunch would consist of a pasta course, meat course, vegetable and salad course.  Dinner was very light as you would still be full from your lunchtime.

My brother-in-law is a talented fisherman who offered us beautiful South Australian flake, caught in the cool Indian Ocean and one gorgeous sister-in-law is a chef.  Combined with catching up with extended family, great cooking and warm hospitality, we were glowing with goodness during the entire visit.

It was however still delightful to return to our warmer haven in coastal New South Wales and I was craving light, summer Asian inspired salads.  It was wonderful to see so many green pawpaws and papayas on the trees with the sun dancing through their leaves.  I couldn't wait to pick one for dinner.

I like to take short cuts when I can so I peel the green papaya, quarter it lengthwise and remove the seeds before placing the quarters into the food processor so it can quickly grate them (large disc).

This is a favourite of my family, they especially enjoyed having us return so I could cook for them. (Picture 3 teenagers surviving on frozen meat peas, pizza, maccas and chips whilst we were away.)


Green Papaya Salad

1 green papaya, peeled and roughly grated
4 snake beans, chopped into 1cm pieces (or plain green beans)
1 red tomato, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic 
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped  (or to taste)
2 green shallots
juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

Combine the grated papaya, the chopped beans, tomato and chopped chillies in a large bowl.
Pound the garlic with the shallots, salt and sugar in a mortar and pestle then add to bowl.
Squeeze over the juice of 2 limes, the mix thoroughly.
Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over top.
You can add chopped fresh coriander at this point but I serve it in a separate bowl so guests can help themselves.  
You can also offer a bowl of extra green and red chillies chopped for people like me, who love this recipe hot.  

This recipe is based on one depicted in The Accidental Vegetarian by Simmon Rimmer.  I served this as a side with barbecued chicken thigh cutlets, but it is equally delicious served with prawns or other seafood.

So tell me, do you like your food with extra chillies?  Have you ever prepared green papaya salad?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Figs with walnuts, blue vein cheese and balsamic vinegar

As I was driving to Newcastle it occurred to me how much trust we have when driving on the road.
We trust that other drivers, especially those travelling towards us on the other side, will stay on their side of the road.
We trust that when a driver puts on their blinker to indicate that they are turning, that they do, in fact, turn.
As evidenced when a car on my right was approaching a roundabout with their right blinker on, I am so glad I hesitated before turning onto this roundabout as the driver when straight ahead anyway, turning his blinker off when already on the roundabout.  I would have been struck on my side door.

Therefore trust is a very big issue when we are driving.

Much like when we read a recipe we believe that it actually tastes good.

We trust that each author, cook or blogger is offering us a good dish

After you have tried these delicious figs I trust you will tell me how wonderfully good they taste.


Grilled Figs with walnuts, blue vein cheese and balsamic vinegar.

1 dozen figs - these are Black Genoa Figs
6 walnuts, shelled
1/4 cup blue vein cheese cut into chunks
Balsamic vinegar 

Preheat grill to medium high.
Rinse and cut figs in half lengthwise.  Place upturned on baking tray.
Insert half a walnut and a small square of blue vein cheese into the middle of the fig.
Drizzle each fig with a little balsamic vinegar, about 1/2 teaspoon.
Place under grill, grill for 5 minutes.

The balsamic caramelizes and creates a sweet dressing.


I know you will love figs prepared this way, they are so delicious and taste decadent.
 P.S.  I trust you will stay on your side of the road and only indicate when you actually intend to turn.
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

March Garden Share Collective - the joy of fresh fruit.

Finally the olives have ripened and are ready for brining.
It was four 1/2 years ago I planted my first olive tree, looking forward to this day.

Here they are in the 20% brine solution so the bitterness can leach out and they will become soft.

Today's harvest, quinces, tamarillos, avocadoes, three types of eggplant, bananas and pomegranate.

Luscious black genoa figs, my favourite.

We are still picking a small amount of strawberries.

Elderberries, I don't know what to do with them yet!

Here are green olives, delightfully hanging on the tree.

Pomegranates are so pretty on the tree.

The capsicums have grown prolifically this summer.

We are again eating corn!

Limes, just perfect for so many dishes, especially in Mexican cooking.

My lovely red papaya.

March is a wonderfully productive garden month.  From fruit to vegetables the soil is warm and the days are long.  This is hosted as part of the Garden Share Collective hosted by Liz.  
Have a look around the other gardens to see what can be grown at this time of year in different climates.

Buon appetito, enjoy, Merryn xx

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Mango and Macadamia Salad with a Creamy Dressing

Now for a fun post ...
While it is still summer and the mangoes are large, juicy and sweet while the macadamias can still be freshly sourced, is the time for salad enjoyment.  This salad is served on our table weekly over summer.

Hubby was a bit annoyed the other night as he retrieved the gas cannister from where it was hooked up to my backyard smoker for his barbecue and said "It feels a little light, how long were you smoking your chipotles for?  You must have had it on for hours!"    Followed by "I can probably only cook the lamb (butterflied and marinated) for 5 minutes then you will have to take over."   Accompanied by a disbelieving shake of his head.

So unfortunately he couldn't even warm up the barbecue before the gas in the bottle expired.

Ergo I turned on the teppan to warm up and had the lamb on the table, resting, in under 20 minutes.  I also made this super quick salad.  A lovely light fresh burst of flavours that balance the richness of the almost-barbecued lamb perfectly well.

Suffice to say it was a delightful evening dinner.


Mango and Macadamia Salad with a Creamy Dressing

1/2 cup macadamia halves
1 mango, chopped into approx 2cm cubes
1 tomato, cut into 8 slices
1/2 large cucumber, cut into slices, peeling is optional
1/4 red onion finely diced
2 handfuls of lettuce leaves, washed and torn into chunks

1/3 cup thickened cream
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (I sometimes use half lemon juice/half champagne vinegar)
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Warm up a small frying pan and over low heat lightly roast the macadamia halves.  Set aside to cool.
On top of a large platter, scatter the torn lettuce leaves.
Top with cucumber, tomato and onion.
Add the mango on top then pour over the dressing with long movements.
Grind some extra freshly cracked black pepper over top.
Sprinkle with macadamia nuts and serve immediately.


If you use mangoes in savoury dishes, kindly tell me how you would serve them?
Thus, an idea shared is enjoyable for all.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 8 February 2015

February Garden Share Collective

This month has been a very fruitful time indeed.

Grapes, figs, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, strawberries, dragon fruit, papaya, watermelon, rock melon, persimmon, pomegranate,bananas and pears.  

On the vegetable side there are tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, eggplant x varieties, chillies, jalapenos, shallots, corn, broccoli, beans, snake beans, capsicum, lemons, limes, kale and beetroot.

There has been an abundance of elderflowers.  

The papaya finally produced red fruit.

The chipotle bushes have produced hundreds of welcome chipotles.
I have dried, smoked, pickled and frozen them for future use.

Delicious black grapes bursting with flavour.

Thompson Seedless and Pink Iona grapes both do well in our sub tropical climate.

These are Black Genoa Figs and we have picked a few Brown Turkey figs as well.
Hubby found a hole in the back of the net where the birds where feasting so hopefully we will get most of them now.

Our dragon fruit thrives on neglect.  It is so easy to grow from cuttings and never needs watering.

These are the highlights of my February garden, I have focused on the fruit because we have had an abundance of summer fruit, perfectly ripened and bursting with flavour.
This Garden Share Collective is hosted by Liz and you can see all of the other garden share collective gardens to see the variety which can be grown during February.

Boun appetito, enjoy, Merryn xx

Friday, 30 January 2015

Elderflower Syrup

I am lucky to have Elder Flower shrubs.  Well I am only lucky to have two because I chose to buy them.
One is in the ground and is 1m high while the other is confined to a pot at 40cm high but still producing fragrant and pretty Elder Flower heads continually over summer.
Elder flowers are good for  inflammation, they are anti viral and also good for cold/flu symptoms, sore ears, nose and throat.

Now that summer holidays have passed and I am back to work I am always planning projects in the quieter moments of my day.  These include making use of the wonderful produce growing in our garden or planning the evening dinner, anything that does not involve paperwork.

With this gorgeous Elder Flower Syrup you can flavour water, tea, lemonade, kombucha, jellies or vodka.    1 part Elder Flower Syrup to 3 parts of lemonade.  Just 2 tablespoons in a cup of tea.
Anything that needs a little added intensity of flavour will benefit with the addition of  Elder Flower Syrup.


Elder Flower Syrup

1 organic lemon
4 heads Elder Flowers
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan bring the water to boil, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Wash and slice the lemon, add to the hot water/sugar mixture.
Crumble the unwashed elder flowers over the top, brushing them off the stem so only the flower is added.
Cover with muslin or cheesecloth and let sit at room temperature for two days.
Strain into a jug and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Best Fish & Chips

I was so fortunate to win a copy of Billy Law's new cookbook MAN FOOD at Christmas Time.
Thank you so much Billy!  This is a wonderful cook book with Billy's innate sense of humour shining through with recounts of his past years of travelling and cooking.
For many years I have happily followed Billy's blog A Table For Two.
In 2011 Billy was a contestant on Masterchef Australia and he did exceptionally well.  It was fascinating watching him perform under pressure with the relentless glare of the ever present cameras.

I opened Billy's book with huge excitement.  There was a hand written greeting by Billy with a cute bacon illustration, then I dived enthusiastically into reading this new cook book with great expectations. It certainly is a book to treasure and is all about "Dude Food" = real food with depths of flavour.

This is a wonderfully inspiring cookbook for all occasions.   Full of hearty flavours and delicate delights such as Butermilk Brined Roast Chicken, Cajun Crab Boil ( divine) through to Miso Creme Brulee and Maple Glazed Bacon 'Dossants'  with Salted Caramel (amazing).

This book is already a firm favourite in my kitchen and every recipe is  successful.

                                 "The Best Fish & Chips" sounded divine.

 Billy stated how a generous fish 'n' chip owner on Kangaroo Island shared his batter recipe with him.

This truly is a crisp batter that is so crunchy you can almost hear it crackle as you bite into it.

My hubby was watching me prepare the fresh monk fish I had purchased that day.  Dipping them in the flour, then battering them before popping them into the deep fryer.  His usual  comment "I used to work in a fish and chip shop" surfaced and he took over, reaching for the tongs and informing me they had to be fried once quickly, than a second time for perfection.

I am never one to knock back assistance in the kitchen so I gleefully let him fry the fish, the likes of which NO man has ever fried before, and set about making an accompanying fresh salad.

I followed Billy's recipe for chips and the divine tartare sauce to accompany this dish.

Ultra crisp chips


From Man Food by Billy Law

The Best Fish & Chips

1kg (2lb 3 oz) potatoes, such as Dutch Cream, Sebago or Golden Delight
oil, for frying
75g (2 1/4 oz / 1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
8 (about 100g / 3 1/2 oz each) firm white fish fillets such as flathead, barramundi or snapper
sea salt flakes, to taste
lemon cheeks, to serve

Tartare Sauce
300g (10 1/2 oz, 1 cup) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 dill pickle, finely chopped
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

300g (10 1/2 oz, 2 cups) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Serves 4

To make the tartare sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, stir to mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the batter, put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.  Pour 250ml (8 1/2 oz/1 cup) water into the well, and slowly whisk the flour into the water.  Gradually add a further 250ml (8 1/2 oz/1 cup) water.  Whisk until smooth.  Add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, give it a quick whisk and now you should have a smooth batter with the consistency of thick pancake batter.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut them into chips, about 2.5cm (1/2 inch) thick.  Put the chips in a large saucepan of boiling water and parboil for 10 - 12 minutes until soft but still holding their shape.  Drain, place on a wire rack to cool down, then transfer to the freezer for 1 hour to draw the moisture out.

Use a deep fryer if you have one.  If not, fill a wok or a large saucepan with oil to about one-third full and bring the temperature up to 130˚C (265˚F).   Fry the chips in small batches until they are blond and a light crust forms, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towel.

Put the flour in a shallow bowl or on a tray.  Take the batter out of the refrigerator and give it a quick stir before using, be gentle and try not to knock too much air out.  To work more efficiently, set up a production line by placing both flour and batter bowls next to the frying workstation.
Heat the oil up 180˚C (350˚F).  One at a time, dredge the fish fillets in the flour then pat and shake off any excess.  Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl.  Carefully lower the fish into the hot oil, deep-fry for 4-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden and crisp.  Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking tray to catch the oil.  Sprinkle salt over the fish when they're still hot.

Bring the oil temperature up to 190˚C (355˚F).  In batches, fry the chips for the second time, for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.  Remove and shake off any excess oil, place chips in a bowl, season with salt and toss well.

Serve the fish and chips with tartare sauce and lemon cheeks on the side.

This is superb man food - also woman, and teenager food.
The batter and chips were super crisp and the accompanying tartare sauce was perfect.

So tell me dear reader, do you too like hearty meals or do you prefer to graze on smaller servings?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 12 January 2015

Snow Pea and Asparagus Salad with Feta Cheese

You need such different varieties of salads over the summer months.
I made this and my hubby said "Wow you made a new salad, how wonderful!"
Not that he particularly likes feta cheese but it is only a small component of this salad and you can easily push it to the side of your plate.  Like a 5 year old is often compelled to do when confronted by something that looks strange, such as pureed spinach.

I have been reorganising my cook book collection.
Original Cookbook Order
Thinning it out, discarding some long ago used recipe books  and compiling the remaining books into cuisine, region and/or author. It was either that or buy another book shelf for the dining room which was a serious no win situation.

This took about 3 hours.  I kid you not, it was time consuming taking them all out, making a pile of ones to give to mum to sell at her church fete, then categorically placing the remaining books in a positive order.

Of course, I also had to double check that I really did not need the discarded cook books anymore.

You can see below the new and improved cookbook collection.
Funnily enough I am the only one who cares so it is really a treat for myself, but I smile every time I look in this direction.

Improved Cookbook Collection
Snow Pea and Asparagus Salad With Feta
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 5 cm lengths
200g snow peas, string removed
100g  feta cheese, rinsed to remove brine
handful fresh mint leaves
handful fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to the boil, put the snow peas in and cook for 1 minute.
Remove and run cold water over them in a colander.
Put asparagus spears into boiling water for 2 minutes then refresh in cold water as well.
Place vegetables into a serving bowl and allow to cool.
Chop the feta into chunks and scatter over top.
Sprinkle with chopped mint and dill.
Mix lemon juice with balasamic and olive oil and pour this over top.
Add pepper to taste, the feta should provide enough salt so check for flavour before adding any salt.

Tell me dear reader, do you sometimes go through and re-organise your cook books?

Buon appetito, Enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 5 January 2015

Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

I love these long, hot days of Summer.
Relaxing, gardening, walking and cooking are all an essential part of summer holidays.
Hubby has been crabbing every day on the island.  Putting fresh bait in the crab traps and wading through the water in his waders to check them out at low tide.
This afternoon I was waiting on the bank watching as hubby picked up one trap, inspected it, restocked it with enticing bait and started wading out to deeper water.
He was about knee high when he unexpectedly went down on his backside in shock.  He clambered back up and started calling for " help ".  I called out to him " did you say help?"  He nodded and said "help" again.  Mindless of the mud flat I started towards him, he was agitated and thrashing by now...
Suddenly he lifted up a hand, triumphantly holding one crab claw and said "a crab grabbed the toe of my boot, I had to get him to let go".

He really did not know what was trying to pull him under, but will always recognise this in the future.
Incidentally the crab also punctured a hole in the boot of his rubber waders, luckily he has another pair.

After a day like that you need a simple dinner to prepare.

Hopefully when we check them again today we will catch a one armed crab.
(Please don't feel sorry for the crab, he would have torn a toe off hubby happily if he could get through his boot.)

There was no crab on the menu tonight so I made this simple fresh tomato pasta salad and served it with marinated fried chicken skewers, a lettuce based salad and crusty bread.

Perfectly Simple Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad

Serves 6 - 8 as a side dish

500g dried Italian spiral pasta, or any other shape that you prefer
1 tablespoon water
6 big fresh tomatoes, or a large handful of cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring  a large pan of water to the boil with the lid on.
When it is boiling add 1 tablespoon salt and stir.  Then pour in the pasta in a steady stream, stirring all the while.  Place wooden spoon over rim of pan, place lid over top and let water come back to a boil.    Put your timer on for 12 minutes.    When the water has returned to the boil remove the lid and occasionally stir while it is cooking.
In the meantime place the washed tomatoes on a chopping board and roughly dice  Finely chop the  basil.
Test the pasta after 12 minutes, it might need longer depending on the shape pasta used.  It should be cooked al dente,  just soft to the bite.
Remove and drain pasta, rinse with cold water in a colander.
Return pan to medium heat, add olive oil and tomatoes.  Cook for 3 minutes then toss the pasta over top and stir to combine.  Continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes until the tomato is wilted and the pasta is coated with tomato and oil.  Turn off heat, stir through the chopped basil, then season with salt and pepper.
Pour onto a serving plate.
This can be served hot or at room temperature.  It is also fresh the next day if stored overnight in the fridge.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 4 January 2015

January 2015 Garden Share Collective

This month the garden is totally bursting with growth and produce.
While trees such as our peach trees have been incredibly successful,
we have also had our share of failures and mediocre crops.
There are only 5 mangoes on one tree, none on the other mango tree.
Only one avocado tree has set fruit, but this crop will be huge.

Delicious, sweet, luscious peaches.

The first snake beans have just been picked.
This bamboo tripod of snake beans will continue to flower and produce beans for about 3 months.

We are growing purple, yellow, white and Japanese eggplants.
Each variety had a distinct flavour and texture.
I prefer the sweet Japanese ones while a chef friend loves the yellow ones.

This is our third planting of lettuce plants since Spring started,
we need to sow the new ones every 6 weeks before they go to seed.

The first grapes are turning red but we have only half the amount of grapes set
than what we had last year.  The dry spring we experienced could have contributed to this factor.
It is disappointing but we will enjoy what we reap
(no wine will be made this year).

We are growing Sugar baby and a striped variety of watermelon.
The sugar babies are nearly full size but are yet to ripen.
We will eat these in February while the striped ones will take longer to grow.

Shallots, green and red compete with grass to grow tall and strong.

My soy bean plants have grown incredibly well and the lovely young pods are delicious when boiled.

There are Green beans, Italian beans, Lima beans, yellow beans and borlotti beans growing happily together.

Capsicums, an integral garden vegetable are always welcome.

Here is a mingled mess of spinach, marigolds, chillies and leeks.
Not every garden has to be tidy and neat.

Some recently picked tomatoes, this has been a great tomato growing summer!

Chilli bushes, every garden must have at least one.

Jalapenos, I have dried them, pickled them and chopped them to add to fresh salads and dishes.

These red shallots were left too long and they grew into delicious, small red onions.
Their flavour is amazing.

The olives on the trees are growing bigger :D

Pretty chive flowers, a delight to view and to eat in your salad.

There have been so many strawberries, blackberries and loganberries this season.
While it has been dry for the grapes, these berries have blossomed.

These are the highlights of my January garden, if you enjoyed viewing this please have a look at the other Garden Share Collective members gardens hosted by Liz at Strayed from the Table.

Enjoy, Merryn xx