Sunday, 29 November 2015

Aubergine, tomato, potato

This is a recipe loosely based on Aubergine (Eggplant), Tomato, Potato
that Yotam Ottolenghi has featured in his latest sensational book "Plenty More".

Believe me, there are Plenty More Flavours going on in this recipe.
The original recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi has poached eggs on top for a more filling dish.

In spring time you are on the cusp of crossing over from comforting soups with crusty bread to lighter salads with crusty bread.  We have home grown tomatoes and little else compares to the taste of sun ripened tomatoes, with the last Winter Aubergine and store bought potatoes still covered in dirt to keep fresh for longer. 

When hubby asked what was for lunch on this Sunday I said, tomatoes, aubergine and potatoes.  Hubby prefers potatoes to be crisp and stand alone but nonetheless he kindly ate his share of this dish.  Plus, I was cooking lunch.


aubergine, potato, tomato

Loosley based on the recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi in "Plenty More" 

Tomato topping
Mix all of this together in a bowl for the flavours to combine
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, or 4 medium tomatoes, cut into cubes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 medium or 1 large aubergine cut into 3cm chunks
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 cm slices
mix of 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup sunflower oil for frying
Dressing -Whisk together in a little bowl
80g tahini paste mixed with about 3 tablespoons hot water until it is pourable
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
Heat the oils in a large non stick frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the aubergine in batches until brown, approximately 5 minutes, turning once or twice.
Drain on a paper towels.
Then fry the potato slices for approximately 10 minutes turning several times until the potatoes are all light brown and soft.
Drain on paper towels.
Place potato slices in the bottom of your serving bowl, drizzle with half of the
dressing.   Layer the aubergine on top and pour over the remaining dressing.
Pile the tomato mixture on top and sprinkle with sumac and coriander, salt, pepper and a little extra virgin olive oil.
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.
This is a perfect dish for lunch or a light supper, filling and delicious.
Although it took a little time the result was well worth it and I will be cooking this again.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

December Garden Share Collective, fresh and fruity

There is an abundance of variety in our garden as we roll into December.
From peaches to snow peas and cabbage
there are always vegetables to gather and enjoy.

The ample November rain certainly helped all things green to grow and prosper.

                     Beautiful cabbages, both red and green have been flourishing.

Endive, or escarole has self seeded from last year. 
Lucky for us and the chickens who also adore this peppery green.

A myriad of lettuce I simply pick the leaves each day and let the plant keep growing.

Chard or silverbeet grows all year long and is a very healthy vegetable.

Asparagus spears peep through the ground. 
They are nearly finished now but have been growing for our dinner for the last 3 months.

My little Thai chilli bush growing in a pot now has red chillies.
These are welcome after using frozen and dried ones for the last month.

Hanging snow peas

Small broccoli florets that keep popping up for weeks after the main head has been picked.

The small bush in front is a dwarf coffee tree whilst behind in the centre of the picture is my pomegranate and it is already flowering with some fruit golf ball in size.

These are self seeded nasturtiums, but please admire the gorgeous blue crane in the foreground.  I noticed yesterday he/she bought a mate and I am very happy they are now a pair.

Look at these little olives, this one is a grafted kalamatta.
Our bees have been working very hard fertilising every single olive bud.

We have picked probably 200 peaches from this one tree.
The tree is netted with fruit fly netting and there are two fruit fly traps inside the netting.  Luckily there have been no fruit fly in the peaches although there a few fruit flies in the traps.  The netting stops the birds and flying foxes eating the peaches as well.  These are sweet, juicy and yellow on the inside.

Tomatoes.  Yum.  We are picking them early to also help deter fruit fly.

As long as there is a blushing of red, the tomatoes will fully ripen inside on a sunny window sill.
Here are my December garden highlights posted as part of the Garden Share Collective.  You can see other members gardens here.

 I almost forgot to show of my first organic garlic bulb.
I planted two rectangular containers during the winter solstice (22 June) and will harvest them all in two weeks time.  There will be a BIGGER patch planted next time.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 16 November 2015

Zuppa di Fagioli - Bean Soup

                                     Zuppa di Fagioli

"Fagioli" literally means "beans" in Italian.  My family revere this simple dish of beans and pasta in fresh chicken stock.   Just a mention of "Fagioli" for dinner will bring a tender smile to the toughest of men and fond memories are created over a bowlful of this simple, humble bean soup from Calabria.

The title of Zuppa di Fagioli has been reduced to simply "Fagioli" but to my family we know it is bean soup and we will always bond over a delicious bowl of this healthy soup.

This is delicious, wholesome and so very good for you with different types of beans.

Here is the chicken stock bubbling away and filling the kitchen with an amazing smell.

This is also a one pot dish and is wonderful for the end of a busy day, or Sunday lunch with the extended family, always served with crusty, warm bread and virgin olive oil.



1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
1/2 zucchini peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
1 litre fresh chicken stock (I freeze home made chicken stock in batches)
          or 1 litre water with 5 teaspoons dried chicken stock
1 bay leaf
150g shell pasta - any shape is fine
100g spaghetti broken into 5 cm lengths
1 tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
1 tin cannelleni beans, drained and rinsed
handful fresh green beans, cut into 2.5cm lengths
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh parmesan, grated for garnish
In a large non stick saucepan heat the olive oil over a medium low heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes until translucent but without browning (Soffritto).  Add the garlic, fry 1 minute and then the tomatoes, frying all together for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.
Add the potatoes and fry until the potatoes are covered in the tomato mixture.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Insert the bay leaf and zucchini, bring back to a boil and add the pasta slowly while stirring the whole time.  When it is boiling again reduce the soup to a high simmer, lid off.
After 15 minutes check that the pasta is cooked and add the drained borlotti and cannellini beans along with the fresh green beans.  Bring back to a simmer and put the timer on for 5 minutes.
Check the green beans are cooked, taste for seasoning, remember that the chicken stock is quite salty so you may just need to add freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the bay leaf.
Sprinkle with the parsley, drizzle with a  little more virgin olive oil and serve accompanied by a bowl of freshly grated parmesan and your rustic, crusty bread.

Do you have a special family soup that always creates this feeling of warmth and fondness?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 27 September 2015

October Garden Share Collective - welcome to rain and warm weather

Spring is always amazing in the garden, the longer, warmer days ensure you get out and weed, plant and reap your gardening rewards.

There is huge delight in picking the very first asparagus spear for the season.  There is one bed devoted to asparagus and every year they pop delightfully out of the ground.

We can grow spinach all year long but the Spring spinach is more lush and prevalent than the winter spinach.

This is the first time I have successfully grown Australian organic garlic.
It was planted on the winter solstice (24th June 2015) and will be harvested around the summer solstice on the 1st December 2015. The garlic seems to like the raised heavily composted/mulched soil and it is easy to keep the weeds at bay in a pot like this one.

A cross view of the biggest vegetable bed.  Broccoli, cauliflower, endive, lettuce, cabbages, sorrel, spinach and rainbow chard all growing in harmony.

These little beauties are coffee pods.  They turn from a bright green to red when they are ripe.  This is from my dwarf Arabica tree.   Roasted in an open pan, then grinded and put into the cappuccino machine, the flavour is unique and fresh.

One budding peach tree.  So pretty and it will be so productive producing at least one hundred peaches.  Peach trees are netted when the fruit is nearly at full size to keep the birds and fruit fly away.

Broccoli is also a staple in our garden, it will grow all year long, easily sown from seed.  These are the side shoots that appear after the big broccoli head has been picked and they are just as succulent and tender as the broccoli head.

Snow peas grow for a long period, give them a support to climb up and just keep picking snow peas for months. Occasionally fertilise the with a liquid fertiliser to keep the snow peas growing in abundance.

Here are some highlights of my October garden.  This is posted as part of the Garden Share Collective, you can see other member's gardens here.

Buon appetito, enjoy, Merryn xx

Friday, 17 July 2015

Pork and Beef Ragu

 I have been having technical problems lately including the shift key on my laptop doesn't work, the USB cord that connects my iphone to the computer only works spasmodically so I have had problems downloading photographs form my phone.  Then I spent 30 minutes removing a paper jam from the desktop printer this morning, googling to find out how to open the back of the printer when finally I had the insight to just unplug everything and turn it upside down to find a delightful arrow where I could open the back and remove the offending paper.  Sometimes common sense has to prevail.

As we have had a chilly few days with temperatures as low as 10 C it has been good weather for warm comfort food, such as this amazingly good tasting Pork and Beef Ragu which I have wanted to share with you since winter started in June.

This is a classic dish, which has become personalised over time and is always welcome at our table.


Pork and Beef Ragu

500g pork neck, fat removed and chopped into 2 cm pieces
500g beef chuck steak, fat removed and chopped into 2 cm pieces
1/3 cup olive oil to fry
1 large onion
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup red wine
500ml passata - red tomato puree or 2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cloves
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
continental parsley chopped, to serve

Pasta of your choice to serve.

Heat a high sided non stick pan over medium high heat and fry the meat in batches until browned, remove to a plate and set aside.
Add a little more olive oil and fry the onion and bay leaf.  Drain off the juices that have collected on the plate with the meat and return the browned meat to the pan.
Stir, then pour over the red wine, keep stirring for 2 minutes before adding the tomato puree and cloves.  Place on lid and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to simmer, add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until meat is tender.  Stir occasionally and remove cloves if you can find them.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and pour in your pasta, stirring.  Put timer on for 12 minutes depending on the variety used.  Bring back to boil and stir occasionally.
 I cook spaghetti for 12 minutes and penne for 14 mins.

Drain pasta, place on your serving plate and pour ragu over the top.  Serve sprinkled with parsley and grated parmesan cheese.  Along with crusty bread, a bowl of olives and a fresh salad on the side, Your dinner is served and your guests will be delighted by this amazing pork and beef ragu.


Tell me how do you deal with your computer problems?

Buon appetito, enjoy, Merryn xx

Monday, 6 July 2015

July Garden Share Collective all about avocadoes and limes

This is such a wonderfully warm Australian winter with enough rain and plenty of sunshine.
There are so many vegetables and fruit to pick including limes, avocadoes, mandarins, oranges and lettuce.

Chillies, long red cayennes and jalapenos

The middle garden bed is proudly displaying lettuce, rocket and fennel.

Tomatoes of all shapes and sizes are so fresh and delicious.

Where tomatoes grow, so do weeds.  
In this case chickweed is omnipresent and requires continual attention.

I have just picked the first custard apple, it weighs 1.250kg and will taste delicious.

There have been so many limes, continually picked now for 3 months.
I prefer to cook with limes rather than lemons, preferring the sharp citrus flavour of limes.

Lemonades on the dwarf tree, they will be ripe this month.

Cauliflower heads slowly but surely growing.
These look so perfectly white and uniform.

Broccoli heads also growing, still two weeks away from picking
but so green and firm.  They will be delightful.

Spinach, always growing, being picked for us and also as greenage for the chickens.

Look at this Sorrel "Bloody"  I recently purchased.
I have grown the normal sorrel, with a slight lemony flavour but
this sorrel "bloody" has a peppery flavour similar to rocket. 

I love that there is always so much diversity in the winter garden.
Snow pea plants are 60cm high and will soon put out flowers.
Corn is almost ripe for picking.
The citrus are so plump and sweet.

This is part of the Garden Share Collective to see other members gardens it is fascinating seeing with other members grow, click here to see the other Garden Share Collective Members gardens.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Veal meatballs with chorizo in a tomato chilli sauce

For my birthday last week my mother, the beautiful woman that she is took me and another dear friend out to lunch at a gorgeous Italian restaurant that looks over one of our delightful beaches.

It is a stunning setting and the greetings from the friendly staff were as warm as this gorgeously sunny day.  After perusing the menu I settled on the Chilli veal meatballs which my friend also choose whilst my mother ordered a decadent carbonara gnocchi. We settled on a glass of  Coonawarra Shiraz as this South Australian region is reknown for it's amazing shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

We laughed and chatted and said hello to other happy diners, some I knew and others were just passing through but it was a very happy scene and a lovely place in which to toast my birthday.

The meal arrived and it looked and smelled amazing, although how any menu could describe 4 tiny meatballs with 3 slices of chorizo and 2 tiny buttered triangle slices of turkish bread as a luncheon dish is quite beyond me.    At least Kathy had 5 tiny meatballs and 6 slices chorizo, seriously, hey it was MY birthday but she graciously gave me 2 slices of chorizo in an attempt to even it up.

The tomato sauce vibrant with flavours of chilli, garlic and chorizo was absolutely amazing, there just should have been more of it, much more.  I had left my phone behind or I would have taken photos.

We decided to go elsewhere for coffee and cake in case the desserts were just as tiny as the mains.

Last night I recreated the dish offering many more meatballs to my appreciative family and it was deliciously amazing served with pasta.  My family and our friends, including Kathy who had popped in for a visit said it was so much better than the dish we had been served last week.


Veal Meatballs with Chorizo in a Tomato Chilli Sauce

500g veal and pork mince
2 eggs
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
handful of chopped continental parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and roll into small meatballs.  Place on a plate ready to fry.

2 chorizo, thinly sliced


1 large white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 long red chillies, finely chopped (adjust to your liking)
1 bottle tomato passata (375 ml) or 2 tins chopped tomato pieces
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 - 1 extra cup water approximately - preferably the water your pasta is cooked in
chopped parsley for garnish
fresh parmesan to serve

In a high sided frying pan heat a little olive oil over medium high heat and fry the meatballs in batches until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes each batch.  Remove and place aside on a plate.  Fry the chorizo slices and also put aside.
In the same pan add another 1/3 cup olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and chilli until the garlic is translucent.  Pour in the red wine, with the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.    Reduce to a simmer, add seasonings, chilli powder and pour in the meatballs.
Place on lid, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Put hot water onto boil with 1 tablespoon salt for your pasta accompaniment and pour in pasta when the water comes to a rolling boil.

Check meatballs, add the chorizo, white wine and 1/2 -1 cup cooked pasta water to thin the sauce to desired consistency, bringing back the sauce to a simmer.

Serve meatballs, chorizo and sauce over top of pasta sprinkled with parsley and with lashings of parmesan.  Delightful served with crusty bread and a side salad.


Tell me, do you like a hearty lunch time meal and do you try to recreate restaurant dishes at home?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

June Garden Share Collective

June Gardening is abundant and plentiful vegetables and fruit abound.

These are the highlights of my backyard Australian Garden.

Oranges, Imperial Mandarins, lemons and limes

I am still picking cayenne chillies and jalapenos every week.

Lovely yellow passionfruit.

Sun drying chillies on the windowsill, they seem to dry out very efficiently behind the glass.

The avocadoes have been delightfully big and succulent.
The Ruby Red grapefuit is visibly bright red when the flesh is revealed.

There are lettuce, cabbage, rocket,spinach, wombok and fennel growing in this bed.

Here are baby snow pea plants and more green vegetables.
Winter ensures so many vegetables can grow and thrive well.

This part of the garden has been neglected but will receive a good weeding
and general tidy up this long weekend.
There are corn, spinach, eggplant, fennel, chillies and zucchini growing well in these beds. 

We are picking cherry tomatoes and bigger tomatoes.
Thankfully now the fruit fly has disappeared for winter and they
all ripen beautifully on or off the vine.

These are my Winter garden highlights, shared as part of the Garden Share Collective hosted by Liz and Kate.
You can see the other Garden Share Collective members gardens here.