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.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Eggplant Salad with Chilli and Garlic

It has been a particularly busy few weeks lately.  Topped off by my Father's health scare and recent stay in hospital which is a 40 minute drive away.  I am so grateful that hubby stepped in and cooked for a few nights, taking the washing off the line and even pouring me a lovely  bath one evening.

It is also wonderful to have the creativity of someone else cooking in your kitchen.  One night I was so fortunate to come home to fettucine marinara with a gorgeous white wine, cream and garlic sauce adorning a delectable range of seafood.  Another evening hubby surprised me with crisp fried chicken, ratatouille from home grown vegetables and the freshest salad with avocado you have ever seen created in Autumn.

Plus pork belly, hubby cooks a crunchy pork belly "Can you hear the crunch" we joke as we bite into the crisp pork belly crackling.

Even the teenagers rose to the occasion and quickly swept and cleaned the spare room when we had an unexpected person sleep over.

Enough waffling, it just reminds me of how much I appreciate my family and sometimes from the worst situations, some highlights and delightful surprises unexpectedly arise ...

Hence, here is the simplest and quickest eggplant salad you can ever make.  It is delicious as well as pretty.  Perfect for when you have a limited time in which to cook.


Eggplant Salad with Chilli and Garlic

4 long eggplant, (I used yellow ones), sliced into 5mm rounds
2 long red chillies, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you don't like it hot)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
About 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
Additional 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a large frying pan to a medium high heat.  Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, swirl to coat and lay eggplant slices carefully on top to fry.  After 2 minutes turn and cook the other side, adding more olive oil if required.  Cook another 2 minutes then remove and place on serving tray.
Sprinkle with a little garlic, chilli, salt and pepper.
Repeat in batches until all are cooked, layering on top with the remaining garlic chilli and seasonings. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and serve at once or cool to room temperature.

These can be refrigerated overnight, covered, but bring to room temperature before serving.


P.S.  My father has recovered well and is thankfully resting at home.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 11 May 2015

Supplí with Pepper cheese

This dish originates in Rome and I have put my own twist to this classic antipasto dish.

There were 2 cups of cooked long grain rice in the fridge and I remember this classic dish from many years ago and reinvented it with what I had available.  I last cooked this when we lived in Sydney so it was a delight to offer my family again.

Although it was a warm and sunny day the nights are getting cooler.
Just perfect for warming food.

Cooked Supplí with melted pepper cheese in the middle.

Supplí with Pepper Cheese

2 cups cold, cooked long grain rice
1/3 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
2 eggs
salt and white pepper to taste
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1cm cubes of pepper cheese (approx 150 grams)

Breadcrumbs, preferably dried, for dipping Supplí balls into before frying them.

Vegetable oil for deep frying

In a medium bowl combine the rice with the parmesan, eggs, dried breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix well then pour over the melted butter and stir until it is well incorporated.
Scoop a tablespoon into one hand, flatten and top with a cube of pepper cheese.  Add another tablespoon of rice on top and squeeze into  a ball.
Roll in breadcrumbs and place on a plate ready for deep frying.
When all are ready heat your oil in a deep sided saucepan until a bread cube dropped into the oil sizzles - about 180 Celsius.
Fry in batches for 3 - 4 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on absorbent paper to drain.

These can be served with a home made pasta sauce, or as part of an antipasto platter, or simply, because you love to surprise your family.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Friday, 1 May 2015

May Garden Share Collective

It has been such a warm Autumn in the mid north coast of New South Wales.  We were lucky to escape the strong rain and wind that Dungog, Newcastle and Sydney recently experienced but have had enough rain that we rarely need to water our plants.

I am still picking the odd dragonfruit (pitaya) but this is the last one
(as my neighbours picked the other one on top of the fence).

There are over 100 avocadoes on the big secondo avocado tree.
These are lush and full of flavour.

Ever present lettuce are always delightful to grow and have on hand for salads and sandwiches. 

It is a great time of year to grow rocket as it doesn't shoot to seed too quickly in this weather.

Zucchinis bursting with flavour and delicious flowers to fry as well.

I was so excited last year when there were 5 custard apples on the tree.
This year there are over 30, can you imagine my excitement!?

I  am including echinacea as a herb, although it is a pretty flower as well.

The 4 jalapeno bushes are still producing flowers and fruit.
I do love a hot chilli.

We pick the capsicum green before they can be invaded by pests.

Fancy a leek?

My little kaffir lime tree is finally starting to grow enough so that I can pick a few leaves occasionally

Green pawpaw grow beautifully in our climate.
Pawpaw need a male and female plant to produce fruit but readily grow from seed.

As do papaya, the rounder cousin to the pawpaw.
This green, soon to be red papaya is self fertile, producing both male and female flowers.

Luscious red pomegranates, bursting with flavour.

Oranges, slowly ripening. 

This is a Fejoia which grows on a tree.

Ruby red grapefruit, grown successfully as a dwarf tree.

The snake beans are having a second round.
A good dose of fertiliser ensured that these vines kept producing for months.

These are the highlights of my May garden as part of the Garden Share Collective hosted by Liz.
Please, browse through the other Garden Share Collective members gardens.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx