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fish with leek and tomato sauce

My  local fisho tells me that his mackerel is line caught, and that’s always a good thing as far as sustainability goes: no bycatch and no complete decimation of breeding populations.  Good Fish Bad Fish lists mackerel as sustainable too.  It’s high in Omega 3 and low in mercury, and it has a nice firm texture with few bones.  It’s an oily fish that goes well with acid tomato based sauce, and I have both tomatoes and leeks in abundance in my garden at the moment.

The Recipe:

For four serves:

  • Chop 4 leeks into 3 cm pieces.  There is usually hard to reach dirt in between the leaves, so I do this over the sink: take the outside leaves off and  the end off the green leaves.  Then chop from the bottom till I get up to where the leaves separate.  Then peel off the outside set of leaves, wash the grit out, chop another segment and repeat until I have used all the tender white and light green parts and I’m left with the tough outer leaves.
  • Add an equal quantity of tomato, roughly chopped if they are big tomatoes, whole if they are cherry tomatoes, and a slurp of good olive oil.
  • Add plenty of salt and pepper, a couple of bay leaves and a sprig of thyme if you have it.
  • If I am going out for the day, I use the slow cooker – set it on low with the lid off and leave.  Eight hours later, it is a thickish liquid tomato sauce with soft braised leeks.  This is the best way and it is so nice to come home to dinner pretty well sorted. If I am home or I want it faster, I use the slow cooker on high for about four hours, or an ovenproof dish with a lid, in a hot oven for 20 minutes with the lid, then another 10 minutes or so without the lid to reduce a bit. You want the sauce to be liquid , but not so liquid that it flows off the plate.
  • Fry the mackerel (fillets or steaks) quickly in a little olive oil, taking care not to overcook  and serve on a bed of leek and tomato sauce.
  • Couscous, green beans and zucchini all make good accompaniments.


I have tomatoes.  Tomatoes for giving away.  The brandywines are still fruit fly free, this late in the season.  Up here in northern NSW, I can usually get them fruit fly free for a few months, but often by now it is one for us and one for the chooks.  I love giving them to people who don’t have a garden and watching that moment of stunned surprise as they taste them.

Tomatoes for drying.  The Principe Borghese make the best dried tomatoes.  They’re small enough to sun dry in one hot day on the dashboard, large enough to be not too fiddly to halve, dense and fleshy without being too juicy. Fully dried they go in a jar covered in olive oil for storing, semi-dried they go in the fridge in olive oil with some garlic and oregano, for adding to pizza or pasta or on crackers or made into tapenade.

Tomatoes for eating fresh, in salads, on sandwiches or as my current favourite breakfast, soft boiled egg and tomato mash on toast.  The yellow cherries are great for this.  They are sweet and not too acid, and they pick without splitting which means I can keep a bowl on the kitchen bench.

Tomatoes for passata and tomato sauce. The little cherries that split easily are great for this.  They are juicy and flavoursome and you don’t need to worry about splits or go to tedious work cutting them.  But I have enough passata on the shelf, and still lots of cherries.

So Salmorejo is a favourite lunch lately.  Salmorejo is a cold soup but that idea doesn’t do it justice. It’s very fast and easy, and it will keep for a day or two in the fridge so you can make ahead of time (which also makes it great for a first course for summer dinner parties or barbeques).  You can also blend left overs with semi-dried tomatoes to make a dip or spread.

Like many really famous traditional recipes, it is simple – just three real ingredients.  But they all have to be nice enough that you go yum even when just tasting them alone.


Makes 2 serves for lunch, or 4 for as a dinner party first course, or probably even 6 if you serve in cocktail glasses. Multiply by as many as you need.

You need 1 ½ cups of tomato juice.  I blend the little cherry tomatoes in the food processor then strain out the seeds and skins, spending a little bit of effort to stir through as much as I easily can of the jelly surrounding the seeds, since according to Heston Blumenthal that’s where the unami is.

Add a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and salt and black pepper.

Blend the tomato juice with a cup (loosely packed) of sourdough bread, minus crusts.  I’ve made it with wholemeal and even multigrain but this is a recipe that really calls for white bread.  Stale is fine.

The next bit is easy to get right, but also easy to get wrong.  Blend till smooth, then, with the blender going, add ¼ cup nice tasting olive oil in a thin stream.  Thin stream.  If you add it slowly, it will emulsify like mayonnaise does, making the soup creamy.  If you add it too fast it will split.  Stop the blender as soon as it is all in – you don’t want to split off the bitter aromatics in the olive oil.

Traditionally salmorejo is served topped with chopped hard boiled egg and crispy ham, but I like it best with lots of finely chopped cucumber.


tomatoes 2015

My two-year-old grandson “helps” me pick the little red cherry tomatoes. He dutifully picks the tomato, puts it in the bowl, then without even letting it go, takes it out again and eats it.  They fruit astonishingly prolifically on tall indeterminate plants climbing the south side fence on one bed.  Sadly, despite being two-year-old’s sweet tooth worthy, they will never be a market variety – too hard to pick without splitting them.

red cherry tomatoes

Which means they don’t last, even a day on the kitchen bench.  I’m getting a bowl like this every day though and with three other tomato varieties also fruiting (Brandywines, yellow cherries, and Principe Borghese). We’re eating Tomatoes as Themselves as a side dish with practically every meal.  I’ve made Green Gazpacho with the yellow cherries a few times this season already – wonderful on a hot summer night. Pasta Puttanesca uses a whole bowl full of tomatoes. Fresh tomato sauces for things like Italian Kangaroo Meatballs,  Huevos Diablos, Slow Cooked Green Beans Italian Style come up often.

And still there are more. Which  means it’s passata and sun dried tomato time.  I’ve posted about Sun Dried Tomatoes a few times.  This time with the little cherries I didn’t bother threading them, just laid them on biscuit trays and dried them on the dashboard.  The little ones halved dry in a single hot day.

tomatoes drying

But I’ve also discovered a really efficient way to make passata using the slow cooker.  It works well for me because we are on stand alone  solar power and this time of the year, there is free power to waste.  I heat up the tomatoes in the slow cooker for a couple of hours, then blitz them just for a couple of seconds with a stick blender, then strain through an ordinary kitchen strainer to get most of the seeds and skin out.

Return the juice to the slow cooker, good pinch of salt, a few bay leaves or a sprig of oregano, perhaps some garlic, and leave it on high, with the lid off, till the passata is satisfyingly thick.  It takes about 8 hours in my slow cooker, which means I can just leave it to it while I go about my day.

Sterilize some jars and their lids by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10 and ladle the passata into the jars.  (A good tip is to leave a ladle in the passata so that it is sterile too). Lay a tea towel in the bottom of a big pot, put the lids on the jars tightly, stand or lay them in the pot, cover them with cold water, bring to the boil and boil for half an hour.  Check that the lids pop in as they cool.

I really like being able to make half a dozen jars at a time when I have excess tomatoes without it being a huge mission.  The little bit left over, too little for a jar, kept cooking for another hour till it was tomato paste thick and went wonderfully with Cheesy Zucchini Balls.

Tomato passata


sun dried tomatoes

There was a good frost down the bottom of the hill this morning, but in my high, north facing garden, even this time of year we are getting a little handful of tomatoes a day.

But this time of year it’s the tomatoes sun dried in the peak of summer that are the treasure.  They go in pasta and gnocchi and minestrone and on pizza. A whole handful go into ragu or bean stew.  They go on crackers with feta and in tapenade for spreading on toast.  And I have to admit, I have been known to eat them straight from the jar.

The most valuable preserve on my shelf (well, maybe equal first with Preserved Lemons) and they cost me no fuel and very little work to make.

winter tomatoes


mango and tomato chutney

This year’s Hot Mango and Tomato Chutney is in the jars.  I make some version of this every year around this time, when mangoes, tomatoes and chilies are all available in glut proportions. It’s never quite the same.  A jar of home-made chutney on the shelf is one of those kitchen magician pantry items – it allows you to magic a meal out of a fridge that is nearly bare. It transforms a very plain dhall or vegetable slice or lentil patties into a dinner guests worthy meal. I really like pantry items like that. They allow you to use up the last of things in the fridge and save you from “having” to go shopping when you have better things to do.

There’s some basic chutney concepts to follow, but from then on, it’s infinitely variable.

The Base Recipe:

Sterilize some jars by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10.

Place in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil:

4 medium under-ripe mangoes, peeled, seeded and diced
6 under-ripe tomatoes, sliced
teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chopped onions
1 cup currants
4 red chillies, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or culantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups malt vinegar
2 cups brown sugar
salt to taste

Simmer gently for 10 minutes and adjust the salt to taste. Then simmer very gently, stirring, until mangoes are soft and mixture is jam-like. Bottle in the hot sterilized jars.

The recipe is very variable:

You can use just about any sweet fruit in place of the mangoes, (though I do think mangoes make the absolute best chutney).  This time I added a few tamarillos just because I had them, but apples, pears, peaches, plums and apricots also all make good chutney. You can use over or under ripe fruit – under gives you a better tart edge, over gives you a jammier chutney.  I like under better.

You can use just about any vegetable as well as or in place of the tomatoes, but if you use a non-acid vegetable, you should increase the amount of vinegar.  I added half a tromboncino and half a small pumpkin to this one.

You can increase or decrease the amount of chili. This time I left out the cayenne but  doubled the chili for a hot-sweet chutney.

You can use sultanas or any other dried fruit in place of the currants, or leave them out altogether (though I do think the little pops of sweetness add to it).

You can increase or decrease the ginger and garlic and onion (though I do think the essence of a good chutney is that sweet-hot-acid balance, so you need some onion and ginger at least).

You can vary the spices. This time I added a couple of teaspoons of nigella seeds to bring up the peppery taste.

You can vary the herbs .  This time I used lime basil in place of coriander, but I’ve also used Vietnamese mint, Thai basil and mint.

You can decrease the amount of salt.  Salt is not the major preserving agent in chutney, so it is just for the taste really, but it’s all about balance so a bit of salt is good.

But there are bits you can’t change:

The vinegar is important.  Chutney needs to be acid enough to preserve safely (and “safely” means safe from the risk of botulism, so it’s a big safely).  So you need two cups of vinegar if you use tomatoes, more if you use a non-acid vegetable.

The sugar is important. You can decrease it a little bit if your fruit is ripe and has its own sugar and you have included a sweet dried fruit like currants, but the sugar is needed both to help it thicken and set, and to preserve it against mould.  The sugar works with the pectin in the fruit to give chutney that jammy consistency, so if you use a sugar substitute, your chutney might be runny.  It also helps with the preserving – not as vital as the vinegar but useful to extend the shelf life.  You only eat a very small amount of chutney as a condiment, so unless you are really religiously avoiding sugar, add the sugar. If you are avoiding sugar altogether, make just enough to use fresh.

The cooking time is important.  You need to cook it until it is thick and jammy, (both for a good chutney texture but also to preserve it safely) and then bottle it straight away in hot sterilized jars. (Be very careful – hot chutney or jam makes the worst kind of burn).

Home-made chutney is one of those things that is so different to the bought kind that it makes a good gift. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to a whole range of recipes.  These are the ones I’ve linked back to the recipe with over the last couple of years of blogging, but it works with any kind of curry or vegetable patties or slices.



sundried tomatoes

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and when life gives you a heat wave, make sundried tomatoes.  Last year I sun dried the principe borghese and made the yellow cherries into passata.  The flavour of the passata was good but the yellow colour was just a bit too odd for many dishes.  This year I thought I might try sun drying the yellow ones and making passata from the red ones.  We have more yellow than red too, which is a good thing, because I find sun dried tomatoes more useful than passata.

I wrote about this method for sun drying tomatoes last year. Threaded onto bamboo skewers over dark plates, and left on the dashboard of the car, parked in the sun, windows up, they dry in this weather in a single day.  The threading is a little bit laborious but it means you don’t have to turn them and they get air all the way around.

I have a plate of basil, oregano and garlic chives out in the sun too, and a couple of clean jars .  I shall pack the dried tomatoes with the dried herbs into the solar sterilized jars and cover with oil from the olive jars. They’ll last like that on the shelf right through next winter.  It’s low work, no energy cost, gourmet product preserving.

That bowl of chilis from the last post yesterday became this:

dried chili

A half a  teaspoon of that in a big pot Chili Beans makes them nicely spicy.

The heat wave is not comfortable, and quite scary in its preview of the “normal” to come.  But at least there’s some good can be made of it.





Back from welcoming Teo into the world, and a few days of warm weather with a lucky 50mm of rain , and the tomatoes have gone berzerk.  The big beefsteak one in the front is a Yugoslav, the one at the back a Brandywine.  These are my two favourite big tomato varieties.  They are both a bit fruit fly prone, so I have to be a bit lucky to get them – some years are worse for fruit fly than others.  And I only try for them early in the season – I won’t plant any more now.  They are both supurb flavoured tomatoes though, and worth growing for dishes where the tomatoes are the star, like Margherita Pizza or Tomatoes as Themselves or Pasta Puttanesca.

The small red grape-shaped tomatoes are Principe Borghese.  It’s an indeterminate, climbing variety that yields really heavy crops of sweet, meaty, fruit fly resistant tomatoes.  My breeding seems to have gone towards smaller and many-er than the standard kind – the seed you buy are likely to be more like mini-Romas.  They are one of my long-time favourite varieties, less seedy and more solid than cherries and good fresh or for cooking or bottling or sauce making, and very robust and reliable.

The yellow cherries are a new favourite.  I got the seed from some wild ones I found rambling all over a native bed in a park.  They were yielding really heavily even in poor soil, no water, lots of competition, harsh sun.  I’ve always been a bit shy of yellow tomatoes, thinking them a bit sallow but these are a good real tomato flavour (if a bit pale alongside the Brandywines :).  They are also prolific and so hardy, I haven’t planted any this year – they’re all self-seeded ones. The red cherries are the same – self-seeded, fruit fly resistant, hardy and prolific.

There’s a couple of Romas in there too, hiding.  They are fruit fly resistant and hardy, if not quite as prolific as the Principes and cherries.  Some years I go for San Mazanos but they tend to be a bit more disease prone.

I grow all indeterminate varieties, so all the plants bearing now should keep on producing right through until winter.  Summer really has started.



Edamame are green soy beans, and most Australians anyway only ever encounter them in a sushi bar. They’re easy to grow in a garden though, and to me, they work so well as a snack food because they have a distinct nuttiness to them. They remind me more of boiled peanuts than anything else.

Which raises all sorts of ideas about fusion-ing them into dishes from distinctly non-Japanese cuisines. This is one of the ways I like them. It’s kindof like sprinkling toasted nuts through a salad. It makes it into a satisfying meal rather than a side dish. It’s almost like your body recognises that there’s the full range of macro nutrients in there.

So edamame which is a Japanese idea, in fattoush which is an Arabic one. The joys of living in a multicultural society!

The Recipe:

Boil the edamame, in their shells, in heavily salted water for five minutes or so until they are tender, then shell them.  (They shell really easily once cooked).

While the edamame are cooking, toast some pita chips.  I use my sourdough pita, cut it into little triangles, sprinkle with olive oil, and put them on a tray in a hot oven for a few minutes till they are crisp.  You could also fry the pita chips.  Cut them into little triangles and fry in light olive oil, or some other oil with a fairly high smoke point,  for a few minutes, then drain on brown paper.  Or you could toast them under the griller. Whichever way you go, you want crisp little shards of bread.

While all this is happening, you can add another layer of multitasking and make the dressing.  This is just a very simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing: good fruity olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, in a jar and shake together.


By adding edamame, we’re already going non-traditional, so I don’t suppose it matters what else you add.  This one has:

  • olives (green and black)
  • tomatoes (fresh and sundried)
  • feta
  • labneh
  • chopped parsley and mint
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • cooked, shelled endamame
  • pita chips

Lightly dress with the dressing – be careful not to drown it – and serve.  Or pack the pita chips and dressing separately so they stay crisp, pack the salad into a lunch box and make your workmates jealous.



The glut crop this week was tomatoes.  This time of year we eat a lot of fresh tomatoes, practically every meal, and use fresh tomatoes for cooking.  That usually gets through most of them with some to give away fresh to friends, family, visitors.  I bottle some as passata, and sun dry some when the weather is hot and dry, and oven dry some late in the season when I have the wood stove going so it doesn’t cost fuel.  But fresh is so much better than even home preserved, and I am lucky enough to live in a climate where I can get at least some cherry tomatoes for at least  nine months of the year, from late September right through to late June. And in mid to late winter it’s citrus season, so there are fresh lemons and limes and tangelos that fill a bit of that sweet-tart spot.  Preserves have to really pay their way in my kitchen!

But the wet weather at the moment is causing my tomatoes to split, so I have to use them straight away.  Kasundi is a good way to make bottling tomatoes good enough for gifts and treats, worth the $5 or $6 a jar they would be worth if you paid yourself for the time it takes.  It’s a rich, spicy but not too hot, tomato sauce, great with eggs or baked beans (or eggs and baked beans!), or with dhall or dosa or on bean burgers or kangaroo burgers or a sandwich with cheese.  And all the other major ingredients are in season now too.

The Recipe:

Put some jars and their lids on to sterilize by boiling for 20 minutes or pressure cooking for 10.  The recipe will make 4 medium jars like these, or around 1.7 kg.

Use a food processor, or a mortar and pestle, to blend to a paste:

  • 120 gm ( a cup) of peeled and roughly chopped ginger
  • 30 gm (¼ cup) of peeled and roughly chopped turmeric (or 2 big teaspoons of powder)
  • 1 whole corm of garlic (8-10 cloves) peeled
  • chilies – depending on how hot your chilies are and how hot your taste is.  I like spicy kasundi, so I used about 25 Brishops Crown chilis
  • 3 big teaspoons smoked paprika
  • enough vinegar to make a paste

In a big pot, put a little olive oil and add:

  • 5 big teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 big teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 big teaspoon nigella seeds (Or substitute cracked black pepper)

Cook until the seeds start to pop, then add the ginger-garlic-chili paste.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves
  • 1½ kg tomatoes (or substitute mangoes and/or tamarillos for up to ½kg of tomatoes). I used my yellow tomatoes (which is why it is more yellow than most Kasundi you will see) with 4 tamarillos and a couple of ripe mangoes.
  • ½ cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons salt

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for around an hour, until it is thick and sauce-like. A good tip is to put a metal soup ladle or enamel cup in the pot so it is sterilized too.  Then you can use it to ladle the kasundi into jars.

Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Check that the lids pop in before storing. It will last on the pantry shelf for a long time, longer than you’ll ever hold off from eating it.