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Greek Yoghurt Pies

This is a real Spring recipe.  You need 24 very young and fresh and tender vine leaves.  These cook fast, so  they don’t work with older tough vine leaves.  We’re not really in grape growing country here.  Some years we are lucky and get a good crop.  Many years it rains right around when the grapes are ripening and they all split.  Or the brush turkeys get them.  But the grape vines pay their way anyhow in leaves for cooking, and for shade and cooling.  Our pergola of vines is on the north western side of the house.  All winter it is bare and the winter sun streams in.  All summer it is a dense green evaporative air conditioning system.  If there’s grapes, that’s just a bonus.

The Recipe:

Makes 12 little pies.  Two or three make a good serve for lunch or dinner, or they go well in lunch boxes. I made these in large (Texan) muffin tins, but you could also adapt the recipe for one large pie in a sponge cake tin.

Steam 24 young vine leaves for a few minutes while you make the filling. I just put them in a pot with a tight fitting lid and a tiny bit of water. How long depends on the variety and age of the leaves.  Too long and they’ll disintegrate, too short and they’ll be tough.  These ones took just 3 or 4 minutes steaming to be soft and tender.

In a food processor, blend together:

  • 2 cups of Greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup fine semolina

Pulse in:

  • ½ cup packed of fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup packed dill
  • 2 spring onions, whites and greens
  • a good pinch salt
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

If you have preserved lemon, you can leave out the salt and lemon juice and zest, and substitute a couple of pieces of preserved lemon.
You want the greens chopped fairly fine but not blended.

Oil 12 large muffin cups generously with olive oil.  Line each cup with two vine leaves, stem end at the bottom, overlapping, and with enough leaf out the top to fold over.  To get the nice star pattern when you turn them out, you need to put them top side of the leaf up.  Like this:

vine leaves

Pour the yoghurt mix in and fold the leaf over the top to make a nice little parcel.  Brush the top with olive oil and bake them in a medium oven for around 20 minutes till they are set. Turn out.

They are good hot for lunch or dinner with a salad and pita bread, or cold in a lunch box or picnic.


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This Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe uses egg noodles, which are exactly the same as pasta. I’m a relatively recent convert to home-made pasta and noodles.  For years I used to think home-made pasta 1. required a pasta machine, and 2. was just a carrier for the sauce anyway.  In fact I was wrong on both counts. I still don’t use a pasta machine, though I possibly would if I were cooking for a larger number of people.  For a couple of serves, hand rolling pasta is fast, easy, and minimises the clean up.  And I’ve discovered that fresh pasta and noodles are so good they are the stars of the recipe.  But the clincher for me is that when I make my own pasta and noodles, I can use my own, real eggs with all their vitamins, minerals, omega 3, protein, and happy lives.

The Recipe:

Makes two big serves.

There are three parts to this: the noodles, the spice mix, and the vegetables.  Like many Asian dishes if comes together really fast at the end, so you need to have all three parts prepared before you start cooking.

Start with the noodles.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup plain flour.  I use the same high gluten baker’s flour that I use for my sourdough. Once you get the knack of it, you can start adding wholemeal flour or buckwheat flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of oil. You can buy roasted sesame oil in little bottles, so strong flavoured that you only use a few drops.  Or you can buy mild sesame oil in larger bottles. It’s still relatively expensive, but it has a nutty flavour that works really well in Asian recipes.  Peanut oil is cheaper and also works well. Or macadamia oil.
  • a good pinch of salt.

Flour the benchtop and knead in enough flour to make a dough ball. Let it rest for a few minutes, covered with a wet bowl or cup, while you make the spice mix, then roll it out and cut into noodles.

You will find that if you flour the benchtop and keep flipping it, you can roll the dough out very fine without it sticking.  The finer the better. If you have time and you want to go all gourmet, at this stage,  fold it into a little block, then roll it out again.  You get a denser, more al dente noodle.  But I usually skip this step.  One roll out is plenty.

Flour the top then fold the dough in half lengthways, flour again then fold lengthways again, and once more.  You will have a log of dough 8 layers thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut into noodles. You will find that if you have floured between the layers well enough, the noodles will separate nicely.

Put a  pot of water on to boil and let the noodles dry a little while you chop vegetables.

The Spice Paste:

Use a mortar and pestle, or the spice grinder on a food processor, to grind to a paste:

  • Big thumb sized knob of fresh ginger and/or galangal
  • Thumb sized knob of fresh turmeric (or ½ – 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • white part of a lemon grass stem
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf

The Vegetables

You need about 4 cups full of julienned vegetables.  I used green beans, red onion, carrots, tromboncino, yellow squash, baby capsicum, and leaf amaranth.  But you could substitute whatever vegies are in season at your place. I’ve made this with snow peas, silver beet, carrots, and broccoli in late winter.

Cooking and Assembling:

Put a wok or a large fry pan over a high flame and get it quite hot.  Add a dash of oil (sesame, macadamia or peanut for preference), then the spice mix. Stir for just a minute, then add all the vegetables at once.

Cook over a high heat, stirring, for a few minutes, then add

  • a cup of water
  • 2 dessertspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons of brown sugar

Continue cooking over a high heat until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Meanwhile: The pot of water for the noodles should be boiling by now.  Add the noodles and cook for just a few minutes until they rise to the top.  Be careful not to overcook them – fresh noodles take 2 minutes or less.

Drain the noodles.  As soon as the vegetables are crisp-tender, turn the heat off.  Add the noodles, along with a couple of tablespoons of  finely chopped herbs  – coriander, lime basil, Thai basil, and Vietnamese mint all work well.  Toss through and serve.



The broad beans are bearing.  Not so many of them this year and they will run out a lot earlier than last year.  I’ve made Ful Medames a few times now, and Broad bean felafels, and we’ve had them for breakfast and as side dishes.  But this  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge features broad beans as the main attraction.

Beans in general are super healthy and have a number of characteristics that are likely to make you feel good.  They’re full of low GI carbohydates, good quality protein, soluble and non-soluble fibre, and a good range of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins, folate and iron – which all play a role in keeping your energy levels high.  They also have a range of phytonutrients like lignans and flavonoids and sterols that play a role in warding off osteoporosis,  heart disease and the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer.  But the specialty of broad beans is that they’re a good source of  l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. Too little dopamine  is a characteristic of  Parkinsons, and of depression and anxiety, and there’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety.

But good for you and virtuously good are only two of the three Witches Kitchen goods, and I used to think broad beans failed on number three until I discovered the north African and Middle Eastern way of cooking them with lemon, olive oil and garlic. The lemon in particular just lifts them to another dimension.  This recipe uses preserved lemon and its sweet sour salty mix is a perfect match.

The Recipe:

Makes dinner for two.

  • Saute an onion with half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a clove of chopped garlic (or more if you are not being frugal waiting for the garlic to be ready to harvest), till the onion is translucent and the cumin seeds start to pop.
  •  Add half a cup of water and a cup of shelled broad beans and pressure cook 5 minutes, or simmer for 15.  (You might need to add a bit more water if you are simmering.)
  • Add
    • 2 dessertspoons of preserved lemon finely chopped,
    • half a cup (packed) of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, mint and coriander,
    •  juice of quarter of a lemon.
  • Cook for another 2 minutes till the liquid is pretty well all gone.
  • Turn off and add a stalk of celery, chopped, a handful of chopped rocket, and 75 grams of feta in small dice.
  • It’s best served with warm pita bread, but also good rolled up in a lettuce leaf like San Choi Bau or with couscous.



We’re still in the Spring egg glut situation, so for a little while yet, expect Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipes to feature eggs.  And though we don’t have cows or goats, people who do will know that milk is also a Spring glut produce.  Both are good protein foods, and eggs are also a good source of lots of vitamins including the hard to get B12, and they are rich in choline, which is important for memory.  And low fat ricotta is a great way to get enough calcium without too much saturated fat.

And baked ricotta is so good! Something in the process transforms it.  This recipe makes it into the half hour of the rules by the skin of its teeth and only if your oven heats up fairly nicely and evenly.  But most of the time is just waiting for it to bake.

The Recipe:

Makes 6 Texas muffin sized baked ricottas.  Leftovers are good cold for lunch.

Turn your oven on to heat up to medium.

Steam a packed cup of herbs and leafy greens very briefly, just to wilt them.  I used a mixture of flat leaf parsley, spring onion, dill, thyme, and spinach.

In a food processor or blender, blend together

  • 500 grams low fat ricotta
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 50 grams grated parmesan
  • a heaped teaspoon of grated lemon rind
  • salt and pepper

When they are well blended, add the wilted greens and pulse just to chop them in.  You want them finely chopped, (rather than turning the whole mix pale green).
Oil a 6 cup Texan muffin tin well and put a little circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each cup.  (This is important – they tend to stick otherwise). Spoon the ricotta mix in and smooth out the top.

Bake for around 25 minutes till they are puffed up and softly set.  They will  be cooked before the tops brown, so be careful not to burn them. Loosen around each ricotta with a knife then tip them out and peel off the paper.

Steamed or grilled asparagus goes really really well with the creamy lemony-ness of the baked ricotta.



My all time, very favourite, can’t be beaten dinner is a plate of roast root vegetables.  On their own. Little crispy caramelised bits on the edges and each individual vegetable a star in its own right. With home grown, very fresh vegetables it’s amazing.  But even with bought vegetables it’s pretty good.

It really should be done long and slow in a hot wood oven.  But this half-hour midweek version is nearly as good, and it meets the rules of the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge.

The Recipe:

It’s not as easy as it might sound to get perfect roast vegetables fast. It’s all in cutting things small and the right size in relation to each other, having the pan hot before you put them in, not crowding the pan too much, and keeping the moisture level down.

Put the oven on high to heat up with a big heavy roasting pan in it.  You want a hot oven and a hot pan.

While the pan is heating up, put a swig of olive oil in a big bowl.  Peel and cut some pumpkin and/or sweet potato into medium-small chunks,  and some onions into quarters or eighths, depending on how big they are.  If you leave the root end on the onions, they will fan out a bit but hold together. Toss in the olive oil, and quickly, so as not to let the heat out, put into the roasting pan in the oven.

Now put a pressure cooker with a very little bit of water on to heat up. (You can use a pot and steamer – it will just take 5 minutes longer.)

While it is heating, scrub, peel if you need to, and chop some carrots, parsnips and beetroot.   You need them fairly small with a big surface area.  I chop them lengthways rather than into chunks – small carrots into quarters, parsnips into 10 cm lengths then into eighths, and beetroot into quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. You could add some turnips or swedes too, or celeriac. If parsnips aren’t a regular for you, now is the time to try them. Parsnips this time of year are very delicious.

Cook for just a minute or two in a pressure cooker or about 5 minutes in a steamer. You are looking to just heat them all the way through, not actually cook them.

While they are steaming, add to the olive oil in the bowl:

For each person:

  • half a teaspoon of fresh thyme finely chopped
  • half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • two cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • a teaspoon of lemon zest
  • good pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

You want enough herby oil to coat the vegetables.

Drain the vegetables well and allow the steam to evaporate off, then toss in the herby garlicy oil.

Quickly, so as not to let the heat out, add the vegetables to the pumpkin and onions in the baking tray, giving them a bit of a toss to turn.

Bake for 20 minutes on high.

While they are baking, make the caper mayo, for which you need an egg, lemon juice, capers, and a neutral oil like grapeseed oil.  I use my Two Minute Mayonnaise recipe, but leave out the mustard and garlic and put in extra capers – about 3 teaspoons of them.  If you have a sweet tooth, you could add just a touch of honey. This will make more mayo than you need, but it keeps in the fridge for a week or so and you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

Serve the vegetables with mayo on the side.



This is the second of my potato harvest Tuesday Night Vego Challenge  recipes. I often have lots of these tiny chats in my spud harvest, and they’re the best bit. Add some egg for protein and avoid loading up with mayonnaise, and it’s a healthy and very delicious dinner.

New harvested chats are easy enough to wash, that you don’t avoid teeny ones because of the tedium of washing them.  I put them in a cotton bag (a recycled flour bag) and put bag and all in a sink full of water, then just rumble them in the bag.  Potato skins contain a decent percentage of the nutrient value of the potato, and reduce the amount lost in cooking.

The Recipe

(For two)

  • Boil or pressure cook 350 grams of new chats until they are soft.  In a pressure cooker this will take just a couple of minutes. Drain and allow to sit for a minute or two for the steam evaporate off.
  • Finely slice a red onion, chop 3 or 4 cloves of garlic up fine, dice a red capsicum, and roughly chop 10 black olives
  • Heat a frying pan up to very hot, add a good slurp of good olive oil and all the vegetables at once.
  • Cook on high for 5 minutes or so, with minimal stirring.  You are looking for the potatoes to develop brown crispy bits without  breaking up.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, soft boil 3 eggs, drain and peel.  You want the yolks still runny. If you start with cold water, this will take between 3 and 4 minutes from boiling, depending on the size of the eggs.  Eggs that are very fresh will be impossible to peel – just scoop them out with a teaspoon.
  • And make the dressing: Blend together a big handful of herbs with a little olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. I like basil, flat leaf parsley, thyme, and aragula or rocket for this.
  • Chop some celery to give it a bit of crunch.
  • Toss the warm vegetables together with the eggs, dressing, celery, salt and pepper and serve.

Did you have a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe?  Feel free to share links in the comments.





This post is just skiting really.  Not a recipe at all, just an excuse to show off. Can you see how proud I am of my tomatoes?

Tomatoes go up there with onions and garlic in my kitchen, as staples that I just can’t do without.  Up here in my frost free climate, I can usually keep cherry tomatoes going right through winter, so even in the lean times we have a few for eating fresh. But not enough for cooking, so tomatoes are one of the few things I bother preserving. I like to grow enough to bottle and sun dry some though the summer.

Year before last I had a very ordinary tomato year – just low yields and plants that looked like the “before” ad. I knew why. I had just tried to grow too many for too many years in a row, and I was repeating them in places they’d been before too recently. So last year I backed right off and gave most beds a complete break from tomatoes. Two years in a row with no tomatoes to boast about.

So this summer I’m very happy. I have Brandyvine, Principe Borghese, Yellow Cherry, and San Mazano tomatoes all doing well, and I had forgotten just how divine a salad of real tomatoes can be. Brandyvine are just a taste sensation, so very very different to anything you can buy.

The Recipe

You need real tomatoes –  sun ripened, in season, varieties bred for taste rather than transportability and artificial ripening.  For real decadence a few different varieties so you can savour each kind.

The dressing is just a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of olive oil, a little bit of finely sliced red salad onion, a teaspoon of chopped fresh basil, half a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme, and a little salt and pepper.




Last broad bean recipe for the season I think.  They are all just about finished – this weekend I should get around to harvesting the last of them and cutting off the plants.  Broad beans are legumes and like all legumes, they are symbiotic with a  rhizobia that can grab nitrogen out of the air and “fix” it in a nitrogen compound that the legume can then use to make protein.  Which broad beans do really well – they’re one of the highest protein sources in plants (along with complex low GI carbs,  fibre,  vitamins, potassium, iron and  l- dopa ).

I’ll cut them off rather than pull them and follow with a nitrogen lover like zucchini.  The plants have a huge root system covered in nitrogen fixing nodules.  Although most of the nitrogen will have gone to the beans (and thus to us!) there’s still enough in the residual to be a good fertilizer hit.  And quite apart from the nitrogen, it’s good organic matter already dug in.

The Recipe

We ate this batch just as is, just the two of us, arguing about whether the chili dipping sauce or the yoghurt, mint and garlic dipping sauce was better.  But really the perfect way to serve is with pita bread, tabouli, and both sauces, in which case this would be plenty for four for dinner. (Although, having said that, there is a lot to be said for simple, one dish dinners where you just get to really appreciate one thing).

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute an onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil.  When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • four (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • 1½ cups of shelled  (not double-peeled) broad beans
  • a cup of water,
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for 5 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.  Take the lid off and continue to cook to reduce until there is virtually no liquid in the pot.

Tip the broad bean mix into a food processor and add:

  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • a thick slice of wholemeal or multigrain bread

You can add a bit of chili powder too if you like it spicy, but I think it is better with the chili as a dipping sauce.

Pulse till it is a thick batter.  Add more bread or a little flour if you need to to make it thick enough to hold its shape (like peanut butter thickness). Then add:

  • a cup (packed) of mixed parsley, coriander, mint and spring onion

Pulse again just briefly to chop up the herbs but not blend them into a paste.  You want the herbs to have a bit of texture.

Put a couple of spoonfuls of flour on a plate.  With wet hands shape spoonfuls of the mixture into little footballs and roll them in flour, just enough to stop them sticking together.

Shallow fry in hot olive oil in a heavy pan for a few minutes until golden.



When I am away from my garden, it is the herbs I miss most.  If I only had pots to garden in, the top dozen plants on the priority list would all be herbs. There are just so many recipes that depend on fresh herbs to move food from fuel to experience, and it is so difficult and expensive to buy fresh herbs.  And dried herbs just don’t do it in the same way.

And it is the perennial herbs that give me the biggest return on gardening effort. I don’t grow a huge range.  There have been times in my life when I’ve got really excited about them, dropped big hints to get herb books for birthday presents, researched medicinal and culinary uses, sought out seeds and cuttings.  But many just didn’t get used and gradually the range has reduced to the ones I use regularly and would be lost without.

My cannot-live-without perennial herbs are oregano, marjoram, thyme, lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, bay, lemon grass, vietnamese mint, regular mint, greek basil, horseradish, nasturtiums, yarrow and comfrey, the last two used mainly in compost.  Add to them a few annuals – parsley, coriander, culantro, dill, borage, basil, lemon basil, lime basil, Thai basil, chives – and I have my minimum garden.

Early spring is a good time to plant most of the perennials, from seed or cutting.  So today, besides the usual round of beetroot, parsnips, carrots and spring onions, I’m planting out these baby thyme and sage plants that have already spent too long in the shadehouse.  I’m dividing up and refreshing my lemon grass – good time to do it because the wallaby that got in last week radically pruned it for me. And I’ll move some oregano from the spot where it’s getting old and slow to a new, well composted, sunny spot.

And then maybe I’ll go visiting with secateurs.