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pumpkin feta tarts

Basic shortcrust pastry is so so so easy, I don’t get it why people buy frozen?  Puff pastry, ok, that’s  a bit tricky (but still worth making your own).  Phyllo, yep, right, I buy that most of the time.  But shortcrust – nah,  it takes less to make your own than it does to peel off that blue plastic, and you get to use real butter and no nasty transfats.

The recipe quantities and temperatures and times are a bit vague, because it really doesn’t matter too much.  The more butter (and the less water) in your pastry, the more melt-in-the-mouth it is, but also the harder to handle (and the more calories).  If you use lots of butter, you need to get it quite cool, or the butter melts as you are trying to roll it out and it gets sticky.  But it’s very delicious and you can make the pastry quite thick and the star of the dish.  If you are in a hurry, or the pastry is not the star of the dish, you can go light on the butter and roll it out thin for a more cracker-like pastry that is easy to handle.

That’s it really.  All the rest is elaboration on the theme.

You can use cream or sour cream or oil in place of butter, but it works like melted butter and the pastry is harder to handle and might need to be rolled between sheets of greaseproof paper.  If you have an egg white elsewhere in a recipe, you can substitute an egg yolk for part of the butter and it makes it slightly less “short” but still delicious and easier to handle than all butter.  Any saturated fat (that sets solid at room temperature) can be substituted for the butter and you are just thinking about the taste rather than the texture. If you are using a low fat pastry and a low fat filling, a bit of “blind baking” first stops the filling soaking into the pastry and making it soggy.  Blind baking just means covering your pastry with greaseproof paper and filling with uncooked beans, or rice, or chickpeas or something similar, and cooking for 10 minutes or so before filling.  The beans are dry already so it doesn’t hurt them.  If the pastry, or the filling, has a lot of butter, oil, cheese or eggs it, the pastry won’t go soggy and there’s usually no need.

The flour needs to be flour – it is the little grains of starch in it exploding that makes pastry. It can be wholemeal or unbleached, but other flours like besan behave differently.  You can make pastry from them but it is a different story.  Self-raising flour is a different story too.

The recipe makes 12 tartlets. They are perfect for lunch boxes, or party finger food – which is where these went. These are really quick and simple, and they were a party hit.

The Pastry:

You can do this in a food processor, or just cut the butter into tiny cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, till it resembles breadcrumbs. (My nanna used to say that the best pastry makers have cool hands, because the object of the exercise is to have tiny flecks of un-melted butter mixed through the flour.)

  • 1 cup of wholemeal plain flour (wholemeal or unbleached)
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons of cold butter
  • pinch salt

Add just enough cold water to make a soft dough.  Add it  carefully, spoonful at a time.  Put your dough in the fridge to cool down while you start the pumpkin off.

The Filling:

Peel, dice, and roast a cup and a half of pumpkin and one larg-ish red onion.  Dice the pumpkin into 1 to 1.5 cm dice.  You can sprinkle with a bit of fresh thyme if you have some.  It will cook really quickly – you’ll just have time to roll out the  pastry.

Blend together:

  • 2 eggs
  • a big dessertspoon of plain yoghurt (or cream, or sour cream)
  • 100 grams Danish or Greek feta (the smooth kind, preferably)
  • A little grating of parmesan

I use my food processor for the pastry, then without needing to wash it, for the filling.  But you could also just beat them together with an egg beater.

Assembling and baking:

Grease 12 muffin tins or tart cases.

On a floured benchtop, roll the dough out, cut out 12 circles and line the tart cases.  My regular sized muffin tray is perfect for this, and the lid from one of my large storage jars is perfect for cutting the pastry out.

Spoon the pumpkin and onion evenly into the tart cases. Spoon the egg and feta mix evenly over them.

Bake in a medium-hot oven for around 20 to 30 minutes, till the tart cases are crisp and colouring and the egg mix is set.

They are best is you let them cool before eating. No Teo, they aren’t cool yet.


pumpkin granola

We have a big and growing stack of pumpkins on the verandah.  A big stack.  This is just the start of the main pumpkin harvesting season and already I am looking for places to store them, feeding them to the chooks and to the redclaw in the front dam, and sending every visitor off with a 10 kg behemoth.

pumpkin stack

And using every pumpkin recipe in the repertoire – pumpkin pasta, pumpkin salad, pumpkin dip, pumpkin balls, pumpkin curry, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pizza, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cake, pumpkin patties.

So, you can see why my quest was to see just how much pumpkin I could include in a pumpkin granola and have it still crunchy and granola-ish.  The recipes I see have just half a cup or so of pumpkin puree.  Hmfff.  And also maple syrup, which is lovely but so far out of my 100 mile (160 km) zone that I don’t buy it for home.

This recipe uses treacle, which is just as healthy and much more local, and 1½ cups of pumpkin puree.  Which makes no dent at all in the pile but at least makes me feel like I’m trying.

The Recipe:

There are lots of substitutions possible, so this is the basic recipe and you can adjust to your own style.

Blend together:

  • 1½ cups of pumpkin puree – cooked pumpkin blended to smooth.
  • 3 big dessertspoons of treacle
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch cloves
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch salt

Stir through 1 cup of pecans, and/or your choice of nuts and seeds. I added a handful of pepitas and macadamias.

Stir through 2½ cups of plain rolled oats, and/or your choice of rolled or puffed grains.  I used plain rolled oats, but I would have used rolled barley and triticale if I had any on the shelf.

Oil two large baking dishes really well and spread the mixture out as best you can without pressing down.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 20 minutes, then take out and break up clumps as best you can with a fork.

Bake for another 20 minutes or so and break up and stir again.

Mine took just under an hour to get to a nice roasty-ness.  It will crispen up as it cools.

If you want to add dried fruit, best to add it after it comes out of the oven as it burns too easily when roasted.

It’s great with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast or dessert, or just as is as a snack.

Store in an airtight jar and it will last for ages if you can manage to avoid raiding the jar all the time.  Dare you.


braised figs on toast

Still on figs, and this is just the white figs, the first to come into season.  The brown figs are still to come. This white fig tree was pruned last winter, not too heavily, and this year has been such a good crop I’m thinking that pruning might become much more regular.  Figs are deciduous and this one is on the west-south-west side of the house.  In winter it lets sun and breeze through onto the verandah where we hang washing in uncertain weather. In summer it’s a thick green curtain.

Hardly worth a recipe, but this has been so regular a breakfast, I thought it worth sharing with you: my 11 Grain Sourdough toast with feta cheese and braised figs.

The figs are simply roughly chopped and cooked for a few minutes with a little water just to start them off, till they are soft and the juice reduced to a syrup. You can add a little honey if you have a sweet tooth.

This is why I don’t bother with jam much these days.  By the time the figs finish, the guavas and persimmons will be on, and then the citrus will start, and still have kumquat marmalade on the shelf from last year!


mango and ginger not-jamI don’t make jam. If I did, I’d just have to eat it and I really don’t need that much sugar.  Besides, I am very very lucky in that I live in a place where there is some fruit in season pretty well any time of the year, and making not-jam is so much easier.  Mulberry not jam, followed by strawberry, then peach and nectarine and plum, then mango, then guava and fig and passionfruit, then feijoa and persimmon then  tangelo and mandarin. The sugar in jam is mainly to preserve it.  If you are eating it fresh, there’s no need.

Not-jam is just fruit roughly chopped and cooked down a little to intensify the flavours and make it spreadable.  The cooking destroys a bit of the Vitamin C but it’s still way better than commercial jams.  With ripe fruit, you really don’t need the sugar in jam for the flavour – it’s just for the preserving – the real fruit flavours come through much better unmasked. Fruit comes in it’s own biodegradable packaging, and if you grow your own or buy local and in season, there’s none of the money and environmental cost of carting bottles and cans of things half way round the world then through the chain that gets them to supermarket shelves then home to your fridge.

Mango and ginger not-jam is one of my favourites.  We are getting near the end of the mango season now and I really wanted to share this before they all run out. It’s just a mango, chopped, add a tiny knob of butter, a little ginger (actually, I like quite a bit of ginger) and just a tiny splash of water to start it off.  Cook for less than 5 minutes, then spread on toast.  You can add as much or as little ginger as you like, and you can crush it in with a garlic crusher, or just add a few big slices then fish them out before spreading.

It lasts for a few days in the fridge, but its so easy to just make when you want it, why would you waste fridge space?



This is one for the breakfast party people.  I’m not sure how it would go for preserving.  For me, lemon curd is lemon season party food rather than a pantry item.  This time of year, with lemons and eggs both in season, is it’s time to shine.

I think maybe standard recipes have so much sugar because it helps preserve them.  If you are making lemon curd for eating more or less straight away, you can use a lot less sugar. It’s still very sweet – plenty sweet enough for even the sweetest toothed kids at the party – and it would probably keep for a while in the fridge.  I never have leftovers to test that theory!

The Recipe:

You need a double boiler, which is just a heatproof bowl that fits nicely in the top of a saucepan.  I have an enamel bowl that is perfect for this.

Put a couple of inches of hot water in the saucepan and bring it to the boil.  The bowl will be heated by the steam.  This is important. It won’t work if you heat the curd directly.

Beat together:

  • 4 eggs (medium size – 50 grams each)
  • Juice from 3 lemons (200 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated rind
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 100 grams of melted butter
Pour the mix into the bowl and stir constantly with a wooden spoon till it thickens.  This will happen quite quickly.  Don’t boil.  It will thicken up a bit more as it cools.
Wonderful on pancakes or croissants or toast for a special breakfast.

We picked the first of the new season’s macadamias yesterday. It’s a bit earlier than usual, but the warm wet weather seems to have been bringing them on, and they are starting to drop and be got by the creatures. I don’t mind the creatures getting some of them. Because they are a native to this region, we’ve included seedling trees in all the riparian native plantings.  But we also have some grafted varieties that were planted for human food, and I want some harvest from them! The first of the season nuts are so sweet.

Macadamia and fruit nut butters are one of my favourite recipes. I’ve posted Macadamia and Pear Butter and Turmeric and Mandarin Nut Butter, before, but the idea works with just about any sweet juicy fruit, and  Banana Macadamia Butter is one of the favourites.

Fresh nuts in season, unprocessed and in their shell, are one of the things that don’t seem to get appreciated enough to make it into the weekly fresh food shopping. With my family’s history of heart disease, I really like it that macas work as well as the “clinically proven to lower cholesterol” margarines that taste fake.  Their fats are the “good” kind  and they are also high in protein, fibre,  B vitamins, minerals and and antioxidants. Put it on Oat and Linseed Sourdough, and I feel so virtuous as well as happy.

The Recipe:

Dry roast a good handful of macadamia kernels in a heavy frypan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan, till they just start to colour.

Tip them into a blender or food processor with a banana. Blend the mixture till smooth. Taste and add a little salt, or honey, or both.

Slather onto your favourite bread, toasted, and eat.



devil's eggs huevos diablos

I wasn’t going to post until the new year, but my love for patterns got in the way, and it seemed a pity not to make it a clean sweep – a Breakfast Challenge recipe for every week of the year.  And this is one I’ve been waiting all year to get to! It is my partner’s very favourite breakfast, and cooked tomatoes are specially good for blokes – there is good evidence the lycopene in them is strongly protective against prostate cancer – but there’s lots of reasons for women to like them too.

It has been an interesting challenge. We have had a few favourites, recipes that made an appearance several times a week in their season, and variations on the same theme that flowed into another season.

Some version of a lhassi or smoothie, based on yoghurt and whatever fruit is in season has been a recurring theme – I posted Mango Lhassi and Custard Apple and Orange Juice Smoothie, but I skipped the Pawpaw and Strawberry Smootie,  Strawberry Milkshake, Mulberry Smoothie, Banana Smoothie and all the other fruit smoothies.

Some version of oatcakes, based on fruit in season, eggs and rolled oats has also appeared on our breakfast table most weeks of the year. I posted the Mango Oatcakes, and the Banana Oatcakes, but Peach Oatcakes, Blueberry Oatcakes, Apple Oatcakes, and Pear Oatcakes have also been favourites in their season.

Some version of omelette pikelets, with vegetables in season mixed with egg yolks and whipped egg whites are another standard.  I posted Sweet Corn and Capsicum Omelette Pikelets and Spinach and Feta Omelette Pikelets, and Fresh Pea and Mint Omelette Pikelets, but there have also been Broccoli and Lemon Omelette Pikelets and Pumpkin and Cheddar Omelette Pikelets and Zucchini and Feta Omelette Pikelets that haven’t made it onto the recipes yet.

Some version of a breakfast compote made from fresh fruit in season, with yoghurt and an oat-nut-seed topping comes up in our house at least once a week.  Tangelo Breakfast Compote, Apple and Peach Breakfast Compote, Pink Grapefruit Braised with Vanilla and Nuts are examples of the genre.

Nut butter on sourdough toast, made with macadamias and fruit in season was a favourite all the way through from April to August through maca season. I posted Macadamia and Pear Butter and Turmeric and Mandarin Nut Butter, but it felt a bit mean to post the Banana Nut Butter in this year when the bush turkeys ravages on our bananas were nothing compared to the effect cyclone Yasi had on prices.

Citrus curd – lemon curd, mandarin curd, lime curd, orange curd – on toast or pancakes came up much more often in real life than in the blog, but since the technique is the same it didn’t seem worth another recipe.

And of course there were eggs every which way, and a good few of my favourite ten minute vegetable recipes that are good for breakfast but also for a quick easy lunch or dinner. It’s been fun, it has made me a little more creative, a little less likely to just go with a piece of toast, and I hope it has shifted someone just a bit towards the idea that packaged breakfast cereals are a complete waste of everything – money, kilojoules, health, joy, food miles, packaging, water, and even, somewhere way back in the process, a little bit of agricultural land. Life’s too short for bad food!

The Recipe:

(For two.  But this is a good recipe for breakfast for lots of people if you multiply the recipe and use a very big pan, because it doesn’t require too much multitasking to get it all out at once.)

Toast on to cook and a heavy frypan on to heat up with a little olive oil.

Add (in this order):

  • An onion, diced
  • A zucchini, diced (or not – just we’re not allowed to eat anything without zucchini in it this time of year!)
  • A capsicum, sliced thinly
  • Chili to taste, finely diced (not too much – there’s not much to mellow it out in the recipe – I like spice and I only go for one mild-ish chili)
  • Garlic – two or three cloves crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin seeds

Saute for a minute or two until the cumin seeds start to pop, then add tomatoes. If you have cherry or grape tomatoes, just add them whole. If you have Roma or beefsteak tomatoes, roughly chop them.  Cover the bottom of the pan with tomatoes – a good cup or two per person.

Add a little salt and pepper and cook for a minute or two till the tomatoes start to soften, then mash them roughly with a potato masher to release the juice.

Simmer for a couple of minutes, just to get it all hot then turn it down to medium low.

The next bit is easiest with a helper.  If you don’t have one handy, you’ll need to break eggs into cups first. Use an egg flip to make a little hollow in the tomato mix and quickly break an egg into it. Repeat for one or two eggs per person.

Put a lid on the pan and simmer for about three minutes till the whites of the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny.

Serve hot on toast.



I love stone fruit season.  We’re too far north for the best of it  – I’ve learned that it is futile trying to get decent apricots or cherries this far north. But we get good local peaches and plums from within my “100 mile diet” range, with most of the 100 miles vertical, up onto the Northern Tablelands where there is enough chill factor and less fruit flies.

We do have several very early plum varieties that we can pick early enough to beat the fruit flies.  And we have several seedling peach trees that bear beautifully fragrant peaches with a thickish skin, that protects about half of them from fruit fly.  Trouble is, you don’t know which half until you bite into them.

I’ve tried baiting and bagging and netting with some success, but it’s a lot of work. I remember reading a report years ago where someone was bagging out organic gardening by calculating that a tomato cost something like $10 in resources and labour, and I thought, well you’re just growing the wrong type at the wrong time.  My basic garden philosophy is that if you want a garden that yields quality as well as quantity with a viable amount of time spent overall,  you have to go with your climate and environment. For me, that means virtually effortless mangoes, but peaches that are half for me, half for the chooks.

But, the end result of all that is that, this time of year, I have lots of really nice peaches that need to be cut, and I don’t want to make jam because then I’d just eat it and I really don’t need that much sugar. This is our favourite way to use them.

The Recipe:

Cut the peaches in half and stone them.

Put them, skin side down, on an oven tray. If you have a real sweet tooth you can sprinkle with sugar, but I don’t.

Bake in a very low oven for an hour or two until they are semi-dried, like semi-dried tomatoes.  I put them on the bottom shelf of my (not fan forced) oven while it warms up for bread baking, take them out for half an hour while the oven is hot, then put them back in with the oven turned down very low while it cools down.

Blend the semi-dried peaches in a blender or food processor, adding a (very) little butter, oil, or just or water if needed to get a smooth spread.

It will keep for a few days in the fridge, and I imagine would freeze well, but we eat it fresh, spread thickly on toast.


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potato salad with two minute mayonnaise

You can’t really call this a proper, by the rules, Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipe. By the rules, breakfast should be low GI – food with “slow burn” carbohydrates to keep you feeling clear headed and energetic through to lunch time.  And potatoes are high GI (though cooking them skin on and mixing them with eggs helps lower it a bit).  But I’ve started harvesting the potatoes and they are such a treat, and breakfast is such a good meal for them to star in.

I grew kipfers this season – an elongated waxy variety specially good for potato salads and for baking.  The cooler nights so far have made it a good season for them. I don’t grow a huge amount of potatoes, and we treat them as a seasonal vegetable rather than a storage staple. I don’t really need the calories of potatoes every meal, and fresh in-season spuds spoil you for the supermarket kind. The treatment used to stop them sprouting worries me too. So when they are in season, resistance is futile!

The Recipe:

This works best with a waxy potato variety like kipfer or bintje, desiree, pink fir apple, or red pontiac. It’s also a really good way to use the little marble sized potatoes that you always get along with the full size ones.

If you cut your potatoes into large marble size, they take the same time to cook as a medium sized egg hard boiled, so you can cook both in the same pot.

  • Put a good handful of chopped potato per person and 1 or 2 eggs per person in a pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, till the potatoes are just “al dente” and the eggs are hard boiled.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop a good handful of herbs per person. I like parsley, dill, mint, and aragula or rocket, along with some spring onion greens or chives.  If you still have celery going well, a bit of celery adds a nice crunch. My celery is usually all gone to seed by this time of year, but the unusually cool year means I still have some.
  • Drain the potatoes, peel and chop the eggs, and toss the lot together with a couple of teaspoons of home-made whole egg mayonnaise per person. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Two Minute Mayonnaise


making mayonnaise with a stick blender

whole egg mayonnaiseThe super easy, super fast, super reliable way to make mayonnaise is with a stick blender. No dribbling the oil in, no splitting, no whisking.

There are two bits of chemistry that make it work.

  1. You put all the ingredients in the blender jug and they separate.  The oil floats on top of everything else.
  2. You put the stick blender in the bottom and start it, and it creates a little vortex, dragging the oil down at the perfect rate to emulsify it.

Works every time. This is the ingredients before blending. And this is them after.

It’s so easy, I like to make small amounts of fresh mayonnaise when I need it, rather than a big batch to keep in the fridge. It uses raw egg, so it’s good to make with eggs from chooks you know are well fed and healthy.

My version:

Put in the blender jug:

  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 scant teaspoon of seeded mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • good pinch of salt
  • 6 capers (optional)
  • 100 ml of grape seed oil (or canola or sunflower oil – not olive oil – it makes bitter mayo).
Put the stick blender in and let it settle for a minute to separate into layers. Then, with the blender fully submerged, hit the button. Once it has started to emulsify, you can move the blender around to make sure the garlic and capers are blended in.