A homegrown dinner

This is a post I started working on in January, but for some reason I never finished writing it until now. But perhaps it’s a timely one for all of you who live in the northern hemisphere!

Last summer, for the first time ever, we planted potatoes in our garden. We ended up with about 7-8 kilos of potatoes! Pretty good for a first attempt. Our other successful crops this summer included garlic and tomatoes. In fact, we had a pretty good crop of tomatoes, as the weather was unusually and consistently warm for this part of Australia!

Homegrown produce

Browsing through my cookbooks to get inspiration, I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe for chicken, tomatoes and potatoes. Perfect! I played with the recipe a bit, adding garlic and reducing the amounts a little to fit our family a bit better. It’s a fairly loose recipe, easy to adapt to fit your needs.

Chicken dish for collage

It looked delicious, tasted delicious, and was a great way to cook our homegrown dinner!

Crispy, sticky chicken thighs, with new potatoes and tomatoes

Adapted from Jamie at Home, by Jamie Oliver

Serves 4-6

1 kg chicken thigh fillets, preferably skin-on, cut into 3 strips
1 Tbs olive oil
600 g new potatoes
300-400 g cherry tomatoes, large ones halved
1 small head of garlic (or 4-5 cloves), peeled and smashed
Bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Red wine vinegar
4 Tbs Olive oil, extra

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Boil potatoes until almost cooked. Drain and squash using the back of a spoon or your thumb.

While the potatoes are cooking, season chicken with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. In two batches, fry in a large frying pan for about 10 minutes over high heat, until almost cooked. To the second batch add the garlic, tossing it with the chicken.

Add back the first batch of chicken, along with the potatoes and tomatoes, and toss to combine with the chicken and garlic.

Pound the oregano leaves and a large pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle, add a good splash of red wine vinegar and about 4 Tbs olive oil. Season with ground pepper and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Toss to mix and transfer to a large shallow ceramic or glass baking dish or a non-reactive roasting tray. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until golden.


1. I didn’t skin the tomatoes, but if you prefer, you can blanch them in hot water and then slip the skins off.

Beads, Blog Hops and Challenges

Long hot summer just passed me by … the Summer Elements Blog Hop

Today is the reveal date for the Summer Elements Blog Hop, hosted by Toltec Jewels on the Jewel School Friends blog. Now, while it’s winter down here in Australia (and boy oh boy, it’s definitely winter here this week!), the summer has started in the Northern Hemisphere and after the winter they just had, I’m sure it’s welcome! As for me, I’m already wishing it was summer again!

Anyway, the brief for this blog hop was to share something that celebrates a favourite element of summer—Air, Water, Fire, Earth or Spirit. The hop is not restricted to jewellery, it could be  about a jewellery creation, pretty photos, a summer recipe, a campfire song, a craft, family memories, a poem. I thought I would share a couple of things inspired by the summer elements Earth, Water and Spirit.

First of all, summer food! One of my favourite things to do on summer weekends is to get together with friends for an afternoon barbeque, lots of wine, the kids playing cricket or splashing through the sprinklers, lazing the afternoon away. And this salad, from a blog post last year, is a perfect accompaniment. Made using freshly-picked corn and tomatoes from our summer veggie patch, it embodies Earth.


Then there is the music that reminds me of summer, embodying Spirit and evoking an instant mood. The Style Council’s Long Hot Summer takes me straight back to the long summers of my teenage years. The Kinks’ Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon is a classic. And in this dreary Melbourne winter weather, The Mamas and The Papas classic California Dreaming fits my mood, I miss summer!

Still, I can make jewellery that reminds me of the summer, and especially that all important element of Water. This little set, using a seahorse pendant from SlinginMud, reminds me of the beach.

Summer Seahorse Collage

And here are my Tropical Sunset earrings, with lampwork beads by Genschi. Swarovski crystals, and a sweet little silver palm tree bead.


Please visit the other bloggers in the Summer Elements Blog Hop!

Toltec Jewels (Hostess)
Marlene Cupo         
Cheri Reed              
Ailsa Cordner          
Robin Reed             
Nan Smith               
Sherri Stokey           
Christie (Charis Designs)
Carolyn Lawson       
Susie Harris              
Andrea Glick-Zenith 
Nelly May                
Melissa Trudinger       <- YOU ARE HERE
Dini Bruinsma           
Kathy Lindemer       
Cory Tompkins        
Robin Reed             
Gina Hockett           
Karen Martinez       
Jasvanti Patel           
Solange Collin          
Karla Morgan          
Anindita Basu           
Alicia Marinache      
Andrea Trank          
Mischelle Fanucchi   
Tanty Sri Hartanti     
Shaiha Williams        
Mary Govaars          
Becca Sirevaag        
Lennis Carrier          
Regina Wood           
Sue Kennedy           
Kathleen Breeding   

Brunch or lunch?

We caught up with old friends this morning. They used to be our neighbours until we moved to a bigger house, and we kind of lost track of each other over the last few years. Earlier this year they had a baby of their own, and today they came over for brunch, or lunch, or whatever you like to call it.

To make things easier for myself I thought I’d serve a dish that I could prepare the night before. This recipe is based loosely on a few recipes from Bon Appetit magazine from about 15 years ago—a variety of recipes can be found on the Epicurious website using the search term “strata“. To me it’s a lot like a bread pudding, albeit a savoury one. I mixed and matched from a couple of recipes, tweaking it to suit the ingredients I had to hand.

It’s a really simple recipe and takes about 15 minutes to set up. Tastes pretty good too, eggy, without being overpowering, nicely cheesy, a spicy kick from the sausage. It’s simple to change around ingredients to get a different flavour, think prosciutto and goats cheese, or fetta cheese and olives, or artichoke hearts and roasted veges. A good brunch dish or a simple supper, or a make-ahead Christmas day breakfast.

And it went down a treat, along with some good conversation.

Chorizo, cheese and vege bread pudding

Serves 4-6

2 chorizo sausages
olive oil
10-12 thick slices of white bread
200g grated cheddar cheese
1 red capsicum, cut into strips
1 spring onion, sliced finely
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
5 large eggs, lightly whisked
2.5 c milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper 

Slice sausage into half-rounds about 1/2 cm thick and fry over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Drain on paper towel.

Remove crusts from bread, and cut each slice into 4-6 squares. Mix bread, sausage, cheese, capsicum, tomatoes, spring onions and basil in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, milk, and mustard in a bowl or jug and season to taste. Pour over bread mixture and stir gently to combine.

Use olive oil or butter to lightly grease a rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish. Spread bread mixture evenly across and chill for at least 2-3 hrs, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 180C and bake for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.


1. The crusts can be left on the bread if preferred.

2. Ingredients can be substituted to suit your own tastes: use a different kind of smoked sausage or replace with ham, bacon or proscuitto, vary the vegetables, replace some of the cheddar cheese with feta or goats cheese, add olives or sundried tomatoes, try sourdough bread instead of white.


Moroccan meatball magic

The kids have been asking for meatballs. And I have had in the back of my mind for a while a recipe for a meatball tagine in a rich and tomato-y sauce. So I pulled out the recipe books and had a look.

I had two somewhat different recipes, one in the Australian Women’s Weekly Moroccan cook book and the other in Moroccan Modern by Hassan M’souli. Both meatballs in tomato sauce, both with eggs poached in the sauce just before serving. In the end, I went with the AWW recipe, as it was a bit simpler.

But if I did it again, I would make meatballs more like the ones in the Moroccan Modern recipe as the ones I made were a little bit dry. The sauce was nice though, and I love the soft oozy egg poached in the sauce at the end. I served it with a simple rice pilaf, but it would go just as well with couscous or even a loaf of turkish bread or ciabatta to mop up the eggy sauce.

Meatball tagine with eggs

Adapted from Moroccan, by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4

500g mince beef
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tbs coriander, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tins diced tomatoes in their juices
pinch of saffron
4 eggs
fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Combine mince with half of the garlic, coriander, ground cinnamon, ground coriander and half of the ground cumin. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls.

Brown the meatballs in 1 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Remove to a plate and set aside while preparing the sauce.

Saute the onions in the remaining olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and saute briefly, then add the tomatoes, saffron and remaining cumin and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Return meatballs to the saucepan and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until cooked through, and sauce thickens slightly. Season to taste.

Break eggs into pan and cover. Simmer until eggs are barely set. Sprinkle with corander leaves and serve.


1. You can cook this in a tagine or a deep frypan with a lid.

2. Add 1/4 tsp chili powder to both the meatballs and the sauce if desired.

3. I needed to add about half a cup of water to the sauce as it thickened up a bit more than I wanted it to, before the meatballs were cooked through.


Quick and spicy dinner

Some nights round here, there isn’t a lot of time, or for that matter, inclination, to cook. It’s good to have a few quick recipes on hand to make an easy meal from ingredients you have on hand.

This recipe is based loosely on the Italian pasta sauce alla Amatriciana—a spicy tomato based sauce flavoured with smoky bacon. But in this version, I have replaced the bacon with chorizo sausage, which amps up the spicy factor a bit more.

The whole dish takes about 20 minutes to throw together, which is perfect when you’re juggling homework, bathtime and bedtime.

Penne with tomato and chorizo sauce

Adapted from The Food I Love, by Neil Perry

Serves 2

1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced about 0.5cm thick
1 400g can diced tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200g penne
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Put water on for pasta.

Heat olive oil in a frypan over medium-high heat and fry onion for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden.

Add garlic, dried pepper flakes and chorizo sausage and saute for 3-4 minutes until sausage starts to brown around edges.

Add tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta until al dente.

Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Divide into two pasta bowls and add parmesan cheese to taste.


1. If the sauce thickens up a bit too much, add a bit of the pasta cooking water to the pan to thin it out.


When life gives you pumpkins

Sometimes, life gives you pumpkins. In our vege patch this summer, we ended up with a rogue pumpkin plant that gave us 3 small but delicious pumpkins. I’m not entirely sure, but I think they were Golden Nugget pumpkins. And they were definitely the nicest pumpkins we’ve grown in the last few years.

Anyway, when faced with a bounty of unexpected pumpkins, you have to think of something to do with them. They were too small to make much pumpkin soup, so one I roasted alongside potatoes and a chicken for a delicious roast dinner. Another went into a curry. But the third made us a delicious meal combined with lamb, green beans and almonds. The recipe was a hybrid, combining the best parts of two Donna Hay recipes: one for a roast pumpkin and couscous salad (from her cookbook The New Cook), and the other for lamb with couscous and spiced almonds (from Simple Dinners). The result was a delicious autumn meal!

Lamb and pumpkin couscous with spiced almonds

Serves 4

1 small pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbs olive oil, plus extra for brushing
120g blanched almonds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbs honey
2 X 250g lamb loin/backstrap
sea salt and black pepper to taste
400g (2 c) instant couscous
2 c water
50g butter
1/2 c mint leaves, roughly chopped
150g green beans, trimmed
Tzatziki to serve

Preheat oven to 200C.

Toss the pumpkin with 1/2 tsp cumin and 2 tbs olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt, and spread out on baking tray. Roast for 20-30 minutes until tender.

Toss almonds and sesame seeds with 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp cumin and honey and spread out on non stick baking paper on a tray. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool slightly and break or chop into rough pieces.

Brush meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side in grill pan or frying pan over high heat, or to liking. Rest for 5 minutes then slice.

Cover green beans with water and microwave for a couple of minutes to blanch (or steam or boil until bright green but still crisp).

Place couscous into heatproof bowl. Boil 2 c water and pour over couscous, swirl to mix. Add butter, cover and stand for 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Toss couscous with pumpkin and green beans. Divide between plates. Top with sliced lamb and scatter with mint and spiced nuts.

Serve with tzatziki if desired.


Sunshine on a plate

A couple of weekends ago, we had one of those glorious late summer days, where the sun was shining, there was no wind and the day was just begging for a lazy afternoon of friends and BBQs. Lucky for us, we’d seen the weather forecast and invited a few families over to lounge around our backyard watching the kids play.

The day also coincided with ripe corn growing in our vege patch. So I decided to make a salad with just picked corn to go with the BBQ. I searched around the web for a recipe that kind of matched what I had in mind—I didn’t want anything too complicated. And I found an old recipe on US celebrity chef Emeril’s website that ticked all the boxes.

It matched the day perfectly—sunshine on a plate!

Corn, feta, tomato and risoni salad

Inspired by Emeril’s Orzo Salad with Corn, Feta and Tomatoes.

3 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup uncooked risoni pasta
4 ears of fresh sweetcorn
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 spring onions, chopped
1 jar of marinated feta cheese in olive oil, drained and cheese crumbled into small pieces

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic in a jar and shake to mix. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Use a knife to cut the kernels off the ears of corn. Cook risoni for 5-6 minutes in boiling water. Add the corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until both corn and pasta are tender.

Drain corn and pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add about half of the dressing and toss to coat.

Allow to cool, then add the remaining ingredients and toss with the rest of the dressing.

Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.


1. Risoni is a small rice shaped pasta similar to orzo.

2. I used marinated feta cheese because that’s what my husband brought home from the shops. You could substitute regular feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces. You could also use some of the marinade from the cheese in the dressing in place of olive oil.

If you’re interested in seeing more of my recipes click here.