Monday, 29 August 2011

Al fresco

As the days stretch and the sunshine begins to take away the chill we have resumed our al Fresco life.

When we moved to this house a few years ago we replaced the front fence so we could be sure that the littl'uns were safely away from the road.

I made a point of making sure it was low enough that we could see out and also so that others could see in.  And of course I had to paint the gate RED!

Our front yard is quite spacious and I just could not bear the thought of losing all that outside space by not having it safe for the little ones......and then there are the dogs!

The first year we collected a cane setting from someone else's hard rubbish pile and I zhoozed it up with a paint job and some cushions that I covered in fabric from Ikea.  We literally loved it to bits until it went out in our hard rubbish pile all in bits.

This year I picked up a fab old table and chairs that I will paint Red....because it is necessary for me to have Red.  It is still in the colour that I found it but it works a treat!  We are loving it alot and will love this one till it too gets loved to bits like the last......

We live in a neighbourhood that is changing from being one of relatively elderly to the new young families.

I love to be able to see the young families wander by, parents pushing prams or chasing wayward newly able bike riders before they stray onto the road.

I love the trail of people walking their dogs.

I love to see the familiar older neighbourhood people who walk with incredible regularity and commitment.

Some of those at first seemed to make a point of not looking in at us in our yard.  But slowly over time they have started to say hello.  Started to look.  Sometimes even stopping to talk.  They smile at the lovely games my little ones are up to.

Little kids are great at stealing away that protective barrier that adults have that stops us starting a conversation with a stranger.  They just start to talk & continue to talk and talk and talk. 

So since we have moved here we have spent a huge mount of time in the front yard and have slowly learnt the names of many of the people who walk by.  Some of them just smile and don't speak..and that is just fine.  In fact that is fabulous.  The joy felt by the gift of a smile from a stranger can sometimes be just the medicine we need.

We have MANY comments about how lovely it is to see us in the front yard enjoying life.

Have you noticed how rarely you see people in their houses in suburban cities these days?  Most of us drive in the driveway and go inside. If we go outside it is the backyard where we go because it is private...away from others.

But I love people. People are interesting, exciting, full of stories and fabulous tales, sometimes so surprising and wonderful.  Most people have something to tell us that we can learn from or about.....the key is that we don't give people the time or the opportunity.

Our front yard is all about trying to reconnect with people.  I am all for it. People are great and I want to be able to enjoy them as much as I can.

On the weekends we try and have sit down lunch as well as dinner- any opportunity for us all to spend time together at the table I am ALL FOR IT!!! This is where magic happens.  Conversations that we don't otherwise give ourselves time for.

And now that the sun has come out again we are invariably out the front.  For breakfast and for lunch and will be dinner too. Al Fresco.......YES!

Yesterday we had extras at our table...friends of the children.  I loved it! These are times that i am happiest.

The kids set the table.

We sat there long after the meal was eaten....chatting, sharing, laughing.

It really doesn't get much better than that.

These are one of my kids all time fave things to eat.  I love meals like this as everyone can just add what they want and omit what they don't.  
We served Lebanese flat bread, Hommos, Tsatziki & Black Quinoa Tabbouleh.
This kind of eating is always a winner with kids who are fussier than others or friends who aren't as adventurous as mine and don't have to feel strange as they can keep ti as simple as they like.  Although our guest yesterday LOVED everything!   
This meal uses heaps of fresh mint which is just going nuts in our garden at the moment so I am happy to be using lots of it!
There are a few parts to the recipe so I will do it in parts.



  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1/2 red (spanish) onion, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • S & P
  • EVOO
Add all ingredients and amalgamate well.

Put a little olive oil in a non stick pan and heat to medium.

Grab a handful of mince and roll into a sausage like shape.  Add to pan.  Be sure to brown all sides and cook through.

Set aside on a plate.

This is a quick method using Organic canned chick peas.  You can of course soak & use dried ones.

  • 1 can organic chick peas (drain but reserve the liquid- for this amount I usually use about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon Tahini (ground sesame paste)
  • the juice of one lemon (you could grate the rind and put it in the kofta mix if you like- YUM!)
  • salt
  • EVOO (about 1/4cup)
Add all ingredients in a food processor and blitz.   Add more of the reserved chickpea juice to help soften.
Slowly drizzle EVOO into until it is the desired consistency.  Check seasoning.
Blitz unitl the mix is nice and smooth.  A hand blender works well for this too.


I have already written the recipe for TSATZIKI.
The recipe is HERE.

Tabbouleh ordinarily uses cracked Burghul wheat but recently I have been using Quinoa as a substitute. My kids seem to really like it and I think it works really well.  It is quite quick to prepare too.

  • 1 cup black Quinoa (boil according to instructions on packet, drain and set aside)
  • 6 tomatoes, diced finely.
  • 3 small lebanese cucumbers, diced finely
  • 1 bunch of mint, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch italian parsley, chopped finely
  • 4-5 spring onion, chopped finely (I didn't have any spring onion yesterday so I used the other half of the red onion from the kofta mix)
  • lemon juice
  • EVOO
  • S & P
Make a vinaigrette using EVOO & Lemon juice.

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Check seasoning.

Now serve at everything at the table and wrap to your hearts content!
We sure did.......

We have outdoor speakers out the front so we can still listen to our favourite tunes...
Here's what was was on...could it be more appropriate??
The string players at my place having been playing this on the uke. it sounds pretty good I have to say!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Lamenting the lost morning person.......

As my little cherubs bounced into my bed this week full of joie de vivre and the promise of a new day, I lay in my foggy morning state and lamented the days when I used to wake all bright & bushy tailed.

They come in and snuggle, wriggling with energy and ready-to-go-ness until finally I roll out of bed and begin my day hazily.

First stop is the coffee machine.

Nowadays I need all the help I can get.

Once upon a time I was like my children.

Hubster never was and it would drive me mad having to wait for him.

I hated that I felt we missed all those hours that could have been spent together....awake.

Now we both get up at the same time as our children to more or less start the day together.

When did it leave me....that ready-to-go-ness?

That ability to bound out of bed & seize the day with the same joie de vivre my children do.

I miss it......

This morning after I had despatched various children to various spots I came home and really fancied something delicious for brekky.  This is what I made myself.
Do you have those days...where cereal just ain't gonna cut it for brekky?
Try is delicious & really pretty easy.  It would also make a delicious light dinner.  Or a great dinner if you are home alone and cooking for one!
Our bantams have just started laying again and I also had some beautiful fresh  Cavolo Nero (Tuscan Kale) so I wanted to use them together.  I love Cavolo Nero- it is probably one of my favourite greens. Do you know it? It used to be quite hard to find and we started to grow it ourselves but now it is much easier.  You can substitute it wherever you would use spinach or silverbeet.
Here are some pics of it.  I think it is really beautiful.

Did you know the key to perfect poached eggs is the freshness of the egg- it is that simple! If you have old eggs the white will dissipate in the water.  Fresh eggs congeal beautifully to make the eggs you may have only been able to achieve when you eat eggs at a Cafe.  Supermarket eggs are invariably old.  It is one of the joys of having your own chickens- you know your eggs are always super fresh!
This recipe is for one- so obviously just adjust according to the amount of people you have.
NB: for the cumin salt I roast  seeds and grind them but you can skip this if you wish.  Fresh roasted & Ground spices will always give you a superior flavour. You can make larger amounts and keep in an airtight container.

  • 1 egg
  • 3 leaves of Cavalo Nero roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  •  a small amount of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • a slice of sourdough toast
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar 
  • water

For the cumin salt just simply add the ground cumin & salt together.

Half fill a deep frypan with water, add a tablespoon of vinegar (this helps congeal the egg) and bring to the boil.

In a small frypan add a teaspoon of EVOO and gently fry the Cavolo Nero till just limp. I like to still have crunch.  Cook for longer if you prefer it softer. Remove from pan.

Pop your toast in the toaster.

While it is toasting you can poach your egg.

Reduce the water from a boil to a very low simmer. Use a spoon to create a whirlpool action in the water and then crack your egg into the centre.  I cook until when I touch the whit it is just firm...probably about 3 minutes.

Butter your toast and pop Cavolo Nero on top.

Remove egg carefully with a slotted spoon and place on top of Cavolo Nero.

Dust with a little cumin salt and fresh coriander.

Drizzle with a little EVOO.

Enjoy with a bowl of coffee!

I was listening to this at breakfast this morning.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Talking on the phone

It's no secret that I quite like to talk.

I am actually really really good at it.

Sometimes I even say great stuff.

And if being good at it means doing it a lot.....

Well then perhaps I might even be a total winner.

Blue ribbon material.

Champion of the show even.

I totally wear my heart on my sleeve. may have guessed that part if you come here often.

I think about things a lot too.

And sometimes- yes sometimes- I even think before I speak!

Other times I totally don't and get myself into trouble......

I am also really quite good at talking on the phone and in these modern times I am awesome at talking on Skype (waves to my beautiful Paris peeps!). 

Hubster on the other hand.........

It's the growing up in a house without one that has made him a full phone-o-phobe.

Growing up in a small country town it was quicker for him to hop on his treadlie and ride around to tell his mates face to face than it was to talk on the phone.

He has just never got into the phone groove.  A phone is a means to convey information, to book appointments, to conduct business.  It ain't a thing you do for pleasure.  No...phones & pleasure definitely do not go together.

Luckily we moved in together pretty quickly all those years ago so I didn't have to torture him with phone calls.

So when I saw this lovely lovely phone light at a very very lovely store  I HAD to buy it for him.
I just knew it would be a phone he would actually use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!
I bought it from The little Shop of Handmade. click here to go to their Facebook page.

I love fish. This is a great way to cook fish if you are bit overwhelmed by the idea of it.

  • 500g firm fleshed fish (ask your fishmonger ) cut into large chunks
  • 250g peas
  • 1/2 bunch of dill
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 100ml cream (optional)
  • 200g good cheddar (grated) also optional
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300g potatoes (you can use others but I had bought some glorious Kipflers at the farmers markt on the weekend)
  • 1 tablspoon dijon mustard
  • salt & WHITE pepper
  • 1  onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry (or enough to cover your pie dish)
  • 1 egg, whisked ( to brush pastry)
Scrub your potatoes well. I like to leave the skin on as all the goodness is there but you need to make sure you scrub really well so you don't have gritty spuds!
I used beautiful Kipfler potatoes from the Farmers Market on the weekend.
Boil in salted water till nearly cooked.  Drain, chop into similar size chunks as the fish and set aside.

In a medium size saucepan melt butter on a medium heat.  Add onion, bay & garlic and cook until onion is translucent.

Add flour and cook for a minute, stir well.  The mix will be quite dry.  

Add milk slowly, stirring constantly.  I use a whisk to make sure there are no lumps.

Continue to stir until roux has thickened.  Add dijon mustard and stir well

Remove from heat and add peas, chopped herbs, cooked potatoes and fish.  Season well.

Pour mix into pie dish.

Place puff pastry over the top and brush with egg.

Place in 175C oven for 25 minutes or until pastry is brown.
I served it with my Fennel & Brussel sprout salad.....mmmmm super yumolicious.

Here is Thom Yorke with his heart on his sleeve.......... I will NEVER get sick of this track...not EVER.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Drying my tears....

Grief has gripped me for most of the last year. 

The weather did for the rest.

We had been in a drought for a decade and then.....

Oh then!

Those clouds heavy and dark with moisture,  let go of the tears they had been holding back for a decade.

They  have been crying ever since.

Me too.

In the last couple of days the clouds have disappeared and given way to  glorious indigo Spring skies.

Maybe......... just maybe it is time to wipe the tears just for a minute.

The blossoms are bursting, the luminescent green growth of new leaves is all around.

This morning after my bowl of coffee, finally able to be savoured in my favourite morning spot thanks to the sparkling sun.

I meandered around my garden and found so many reasons to dry my eyes.....

I hope the clouds go back to an occasional too. 

I need that sunshine.

It helps me see more clearly, see the beauty.

Helps me be more mindful of all the simple pleasures that surround me.

Here is what I found on my garden wander this morning.

My soul is smiling.

I LOVE this salad.  We have varieties of this very often. 
At the farmer's market on the weekend I picked  up a bulging bulb of fennel & some delicious little brussels so I had to make it. 
I shaved a little home grown horseradish on too for a bit of extra zing.
You can swap the brussel sprouts for any kind of cabbage, also you can add apple or orange, change the herbs too.  The basis for me is the fennel & the capers, the rest changes depending on what I have.
Be generous with the Capers!
It is beautiful with fish, chook, lamb.  I served it alongside a Mushroom risotto the other night.  Delicious!

  • one fennel bulb, trim but save the frills (you can add these to the salad)
  • 3-4 brussels sprouts
  • 4 tablespoons of baby capers
  • roughly chopped parsley & mint
  • 1 lemon (grate rind & reserve the juice for dressing)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (shaved or ground)
  • 1 tblspoon dijon mustard
  • EVOO (extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • S & P
Finely slice the fennel & brussel sprouts.  I use a kitchen Mandolin but if you don't have one just slice VERY finely.
Grate the lemon rind over the salad so the oil & all it's perfume lands on it too!
Add the chopped herbs
Add the capers and a good 1/2 cup of Parmigiano- I shaved mine this time but often I use ground.
Make a vinaigrette using the mustard, EVOO & lemon juice.
Drizzle generously, toss and season.
This morning I have been listening to an ol' joy.  This song reminds me of early days with my gorgeous hubby....days of youth and promise of our days together ahead.

Friday, 19 August 2011

What's for dinner?

This week my eldest wanted to have a friend come for a sleepover.

I love the kids getting together with their buddies.

It is one of the greatest benefits of the kids going to the local school.  The friendships they build are with people that live in very close proximity.  It makes playing with friends after school so much easier.

Now my eldest has gone to High school that changes significantly.

The kids come from a bigger area.  Still reasonably local but not just a couple of blocks away.

When any of my kids ask for friends over I love to be able to say yes.

I can't always but it is very important to me that my kids feel good about welcoming their friends into our home.

I pretty much have an open door policy.  I love my home to be a place that others want to be in.

A place that feels warm and inviting.

A place to share.





I have a Mexican tin sign above my door that says "Mi Casa Es tu Casa".

It means "My house is your house".

It is very very important  to me that my house is a HOME not a showpiece.  I have written about it before here.

And I am aware that as my children grow older the feeling that you are welcome to bring your friends around is not so common.  I really really hope my kids continue to want their friends to come here.

It made me laugh when the first thing my son asked about his friend coming over was "Whats for dinner on Saturday?"

I looked at him with a "You SURELY know me better than that" kind of look.

I don't really plan dinner.  In fact I am really really bad- like actually hopeless- at making plans!

Dinner is very rarely planned and is more of a what's in the fridge/freezer and away we go type affair.

It drives my 11yo mad!! 

Virtually on queue every single day as he arrives home from school he asks "Whats for dinner Mum?"

I'm kind of surprised he still asks as the response is always pretty much the same.

It goes something like this....(Ok. it ALWAYS goes like this).

"I don't know yet. I'll have a look what's in the fridge."

But I understood that my eldest wanted to make an occasion of his buddys' sleepover.  I asked if he had a special request.  It's nice to make it special.  I get that.  So I caved in and PLANNED dinner!

We are having my slow cooked Lamb Souvlaki.

I hope that my kids continue to invite their friends over......the more the merrier I say.

We decided on this dinner as it's an everybody loves it kind of meal- unless of course you are a vegetarian!

A friend of mine came around a couple of weeks ago to get advice about cooking Souvlaki at home.  I sent her away with this recipe.  She said it was a huge success.  And it is really easy.  I hope you find the same!

  • 1 lamb shoulder (preferably with the bone for extra flavour, but not necessary)
  • 5 (or more if you are like me!) cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch oregano (if you can get hold of the Dried Greek oregano use that in it's place but use less as it is FULL of flavour)
  • 2 lemons 
  • S & P
  • EVOO
  • 1 pack of Souvlaki wrappers
  • 1 onion sliced finely
  • 1 cucumber, cut into small dice.
  • 1 cos lettuce
  • 3-4 tomatoes, sliced
  • yoghurt (buy the Plain thick Greek style & if you want it to be lovely and thick then drain desired amount in a muslin cloth. This creates a gorgeous thick garlic sauce but is not necessary)
Preheat oven to 140C.

Add 4 cloves of garlic, oregano, rind of 1 & 1/2 lemons and a 1/2 teaspoon salt to a pestle and mortar.  Grind till a paste.  Add some pepper ( I prefer White but black is fine). Reserve 2 tablespoons of this mix for the garlic sauce (Tzatsiki)

Add EVOO and the juice of one lemon and rub really well into the lamb shoulder.

Place into an ovenproof dish and cover well with alfoil.  Place in oven and cook for 3 1/2 hours.

At this point remove alfoil and turn up oven temp to 170C for  a half hour.  This will allow the outside of the lamb to caramelise.

Remove from oven and shred with a fork.  The meat will just fall away from the bone.
Cover and let stand for 10 minutes while you make the Tzastiki.

Add desired amount of yoghurt to a bowl. After you have finely diced the cucumber, squeeze as much of the juice as you can out- this helps retain a thick sauce. Add to yoghurt. Add the reserved spice &garlic mix from earlier and stir through well. Drizzle a little extra EVOO over the top.

Add a little EVOO to a non stick pan and gently fry each souvlaki wrap on one side till just brown before placing on a platter.  this keeps the wrap soft enough to fold without breaking and adds lovely flavour and texture.  Place ingredients onto the browned side.
I serve all ingredients (Lamb, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, tzatsiki and any other ingredients you wish) on platters at the table for everyone to help themselves.

I was introduced to this song by a special friend who GETS the whole idea of having a house that other people want to be in. A HOME. My lovely friend visited today for coffee. It was always.
This song makes me cry. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 
I'm so grateful she shared it with me.  I actually can't believe I didn't know it before.
It's my turn to share it with you. Listen very carefully to the words........& then pass me a tissue. thanks.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Spring Chickens....


It is coming!

Spring is busting its way through the cold woody trees.

The buds are bulging until they cannot be contained any longer and are bursting; displaying their magnificence.

Soon the fruit behind those blossoms will swell to give us our delicious summer stone fruits.

Me & my 2 littlest spring chickens went out walking to enjoy a rare break in the rain this week.

The winter has felt long.

And cold.

The chooks haven't been laying for months.....

Yesterday I went out to refresh their water and feed them the scraps.

And then there, right there was the biggest and bestest sign that Spring is very nearly here.
Thankyou very much ladies! We have missed your bounty.....

Our ladies had started laying again!
There is nothing like collecting eggs from your very own backyard chickens.
Except maybe the eating of them!

I always make my own breadcrumbs and quite often have some leftover.  Once you have made your own you will never buy a packet of them again. it is so worth the little effort it takes.
They keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for quite a while. 
Just use leftover bread (use good quality bread), take off the crust (feed them to your chooks!), and blitz in your food processor.  It takes about 30 seconds!
I like to add extra goodness in with the crumbs.  You can add all manner of things.
This crumb mix was made to coat loin pork chops so I had added loads of sage, lemon rind and Parmesan cheese. It goes amazing well on eggplant too. Did you know I LOVE eggplant?  It is probably my favourite vegetable (along with beetroot). Some people do the whole salt thing. Me- well I have never ever had a bitter eggplant so I have never bothered.
I have made this dish several times. The eldest 2 boys LOVE it. It is really quite quick & easy and super scrummy.   The mozzarella oozes out the sides....mmmm so good! It is substantial enough for a main course.
  • 1 large eggplant
  • home made breadcrumbs
  • EVOO
  • good quality Mozzarella (if you can, use Buffalo, if not use a good quality substitute)
  • pesto (hopefully you have some of this in your fridge!)
  • 1 egg (beaten with a dash of milk)
  • flour for dusting
  • S & P
 Season the flour well with salt & pepper. 
Place the flour, the crumbs and the egg into 3 SEPARATE bowls.
Slice the eggplant into 1cm thick rounds.  Cut an even number as you will sandwich them.
Slice the mozzarella.

Place a piece of Mozzarella on one side of the eggplant sandwich & paste the other with pesto as in pic below:
Now place the 2 pieces together and dust in flour, coat with egg and then with the herby crumbs.

Once all sandwiches are made add some EVOO to a shallow non-stick pan and fry on a gentle heat until brown.  

Flip and do same to other side.
Drain on paper towel.

I think it is best served with a crunchy green salad with loads if fresh herbs.  I add loads of dill as I really LOVE dill & eggplant together.

Today's tune is a new find courtesy of a lovely friend ;)
William Blake's words married with gorgeous music & could it not be AMAZING?