Feelin’ Groovy


Okay 2016, stop, enough already! Not only has the year been fairly unkind so far but it’s also moving too damn fast. I wish I could just rewind the past few months, start over and this time be better prepared. It feels like I got out on the wrong side of the bed after we returned from America in mid-January and I’ve been a bit out of sorts ever since. It doesn’t help that I’m struggling to get on top of things; as the year gathers momentum, I seem to be playing catch-up the whole time. This is particularly the case in the allotment where autumn has really caught me on the wrong foot and I haven’t got half of our winter veggies in. I have this nagging sense that time is just passing me by and that I’m constantly reacting to situations rather than being proactive. Although, I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is I should be doing.

If my external world took a knocking in the first quarter of the year, it is now my body’s turn to experience a bit of bad luck. It started with the shoulder injury. Then, after a week of staving off a head cold with plenty of vitamin c and rest, I finally succumbed to the dreaded lurgy. It appears that the snotty nose was just the viral advance guard; the main bacterial army arrived under cover of night and took occupation of my lungs, the chink in my armour. (A lung function test last year revealed rather disconcertingly that I have the lungs of an 81 year old!) It meant that I missed my niece’s daughter’s 21st party and a gathering of the clan in Pinetown. I was sad about that and spent a miserable day in bed feeling sorry for myself. However, after seeing the doctor and taking the prescribed meds, I have recovered but it’s left me quite worn out.

At about the same time as I got bronchitis, I had what my doctor thinks was a deep vein thrombosis. Without any warning I got such an excruciating pain in my foot that I couldn’t walk on it and then it turned a rather alarming shade of purple. The pain, which felt like a cramp, lasted about 20 minutes and left my foot swollen and sore to touch. The next day my calf also felt quite tender. The doc prescribed a daily dose of aspirin to reduce the risk of future blood clots. I have to confess that, despite it being agony and very scary, I’m not so sure that I want to take aspirin every day for the rest of my life on the supposition that it was a DVT and on the off chance that it may happen again. I know that health issues do not make for scintillating reading but I got very helpful advice when I wrote about my rotator cuff problem. So I mention the DVT episode in case any of you may have experienced one. I would also be interested to hear your thoughts on taking aspirin long term.

Right then, I think I’ve whinged enough and, in the words of Johnny Mercer, it’s now time to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive and start reviewin’ the attitude of doin’ right!

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium’s
Liable to walk upon the scene

I love that last line: “Have faith or pandemonium’s liable to walk upon the scene”. Pandaemonium is the capital of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost; it’s the abode of all the demons. Well, I obviously need to brush the dust off my faith in positive thinking because I’ve been defaulting to the negative and those bloody little demons are definitely getting past the salt! So, on with the positive ….. next post, I promise.


Recently I joined a camera interest group in Nottingham Road. We’re a bunch of amateur photographers lead by Derrick, an accomplished wildlife photographer who is very generous in sharing his expertise with us. The group meets once a month to discuss various aspects of photography and share photos on an agreed theme. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I take a lot of photos of my garden and fortunately for me the theme for the first meeting I attended was “my garden”. I was awarded the floating trophy (which is a gorgeous old box Brownie mounted on a wooden plinth, created by Derrick) for this photo of a water lily, taken several years ago with my old Panasonic camera. I was right proper chuffed, I was.

I was awarded the floating trophy (which is a gorgeous old box Brownie mounted on a wooden plinth, created by Derrick) for my photo of a water lily, taken several years ago with my old Panasonic camera. I was right proper chuffed, I was.

the floating trophy

the floating trophy










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Stop This Train

Last week we bought two pretty little hens from Howick pet shop to replace Rosie, my beautiful Rosie, and Hattie who both just up and died and are buried in the orchard. We found Hattie one morning dead on the floor of the hen house with no visible sign of injury. Later that day, Rosie looked decidedly poorly so I dissolved some mild aspirin and syringed it into her mouth which, according to Backyard Chickens is good for pain and fever. Unfortunately, it didn’t cure her and by that evening she too was dead. The next day, concerned about the remaining two chickens, we visited Hopewells (a farm supplies store and one of my favourite shops in Howick) and were advised to put an anti-bacterial powder (Cosumix Plus) in the chickens’ drinking water to treat any bacterial digestive or respiratory diseases. Well, short of doing autopsies, we can’t be sure about what killed Hattie and Rosie but the other two, Ezzie (Esmeralda) and Etta (Henrietta), survived so it could have been bacterial.  

When I told Thandi the names I had chosen for the new additions, Figgy and Missy, she thought I said Fiki (as in Fikile, a Zulu name) and Meisie (Afrikaans for girl), so that’s what they’re now called. Ezzie and Etta have not been very welcoming; in fact they’ve been downright inhospitable. Hopefully it’s just a case of ruffled feathers and things in the hen house will settle down soon!

I often like to sit and commune with my chickens as they cluck and scratch about in their run. I pass them bits of green stuff through the fence, like chickweed and dandelion, and drop in the occasional snail sacrifice, and they love me for it. A Cape gooseberry has grown rather rampant over one side of the fence. They don’t eat the leaves but enjoy the ripe fruit, of which there is plenty at the moment. I often find them sleeping in holes they’ve dug in the ground under the gooseberry branches – their own little forest haven. It reminds me of a picture book my mother used to read to me when I was little. I’ve never known what it was called but in my minds eye I can see the pictures as clear as daylight, little people living in harmony with all the forest creatures, in beautiful miniature houses carved into trees and toadstools. When I was a child I was an avid believer in fairies and elves and would build them houses out of ferns at the bottom of the garden and leave little pieces of bread and bowls of water in the houses for them.

Fiki and Meisie

Fiki and Meisie

chickens under the gooseberry bush

chickens under the gooseberry bush

I’ve only managed to keep a few books from my childhood – treasured copies of The Wind in the Willows, A Child’s Garden of Verses and How the Mole Got His Pockets and I’ve always been curious to know where those pictures in my head of woodland creatures came from. Then, on Saturday, one of the Facebook pages that I follow, Towards Greener Borders, shared this picture and I knew immediately that I had found the author / illustrator of my childhood pictures.

After a Google search I discovered that Erich Heinemann and Fritz Baumgarten wrote and illustrated children’s books in the 1940’s and I just knew that these two created the book my mother used to read to me. So strange how we come across answers to things when we are not looking for them.

I have developed a sore shoulder which the physio diagnosed as a rotator cuff injury. It could just be wear and tear or tendonitis, whatever it is it’s a bloody nuisance. I’ve tried physio, ayurvedic anti-inflammatories, reiki, exercise and essential oil painkillers. It hasn’t got any better but it hasn’t got worse and, on the plus side, I smell quite nice. Still, I hate feeling incapacitated.

My mother was sick a while ago, a head cold and throat infection. She is basically a healthy person, other than being unsteady on her feet, and is seldom ill. She was put on antibiotics and some other medication and it really knocked her for six. She became very lethargic and down in the dumps – facing her frailty is a scary business, for both of us. Until she got sick she was quite capable of taking care of herself but it has become necessary for us to take over preparing her daily main meal, which she likes to eat at midday, as well as doing her laundry. Thandi cleans house for her once a week and does some work in her garden. I knew this day would come and I know it will only become more demanding with time but I’d rather have her here with me than in a nursing home. She so loves her garden, the birds and Buddy, who visits her every day and sleeps under her table. She has already told me that she wants to die in her wee house and I can’t bear to think what circumstances may arise that would necessitate moving her. As it stands, we are all coping quite well.

“So we beat on, boats against the current.”

autumn sunset

autumn sunset

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Life Is Hard


I often wonder why it feels as though life is such a bloody effort. Of course I’m grateful that for me it’s not a struggle for survival or a physical one but rather it’s a kind of internal battle that goes on incessantly inside my head.

I remember coming across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when I was a psych student in the late 70’s. He wanted to explain what motivates people and came up with the idea that we have certain needs that we seek to fulfil and once fulfilled, we move on to the next one. These motivational needs are often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

the peak performance centre

It’s the self-actualization level that I’m interested in. Maslow reckoned:

What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

 Ja well no fine (I find that if I read it slowly, it makes more sense).

Perhaps this extract from psychology today explains it better.

“Self-actualization” represents a concept derived from Humanistic psychological theory and, specifically, from the theory created by Abraham Maslow. Self-actualization, according to Maslow, represents growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs; those for meaning in life, in particular. Carl Rogers also created a theory implicating a “growth potential” whose aim was to integrate congruently the “real self” and the “ideal self” thereby cultivating the emergence of the “fully functioning person”.

So, if I understand Maslow and Rogers correctly, I think my problem is that my “real” self and my “ideal” self are incongruent and I am therefore unable to self-actualize. Whew, I’m glad I got that sorted!

I love plans, order, systems and routines. I spend hours preparing timetables, to do lists, strategic life plans and vision boards. And then I completely ignore them. I have a schedule stuck on my bathroom wall stating quite categorically that the day should start at 6 and, after doing my morning pages, followed by yoga and meditation, I should be washed, dressed, fed and ready to take on the world at 9. Well please, what was I thinking? That’s my ideal self; the real self is still in her pajamas at 11.

Recently, I drew up a roster for lunches and dinners, sharing them out between Peter and me. I even put some clip art pictures on it to make it look pretty and stuck it on the fridge door. A week later Peter pointedly remarked that I hadn’t prepared one meal since the roster went up. I had excuses but that’s not the point.

So why are my ideal and real selves not converging?

My ideal self is a vegetarian, non-drinking yogi. She floats around dressed in Judi Dench’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wardrobe. She writes every day, at a scheduled time; spends weekends intrepidly exploring the countryside with her camera; produces an abundance of fresh vegetables all year round from her well managed allotment; hosts lively soirées with aplomb; runs a well-oiled household; and still manages to effortlessly devote time to helping those less fortunate than her.

My real self, on the other hand, ingests a lot of toxins and does not exercise regularly. She can be found most mornings in her pjs and later in tracksuit pants and LL Bean moccasins. Her writing is sporadic; weekends are spent in bed watching telly; her allotment, soirées, household and community work are all equally disorganised, her input into all of them is frequently rather last minute. Did I mention she’s a procrastinator of note and often has a hangover?

Is it any wonder that there’s constant conflict in my head? I want to self-actualize, really I do, but it’s just so darn hard.


Buddy on the move

nose down a hole

nose down a hole

Buddy and Layla loving their walkies

Buddy and Layla loving their walkies



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Here We Are


I started my blog 5 years ago to the day (Friday, 08 April 2011) and I remember the day clearly. Judy was visiting and was watching telly with Peter in the tv lounge while I was working on my blog at the computer in the adjacent office nook (this was before I got my trusty laptop and could write anywhere). I changed the post about a hundred times, reading it out to them after each edit. I was dithering about so much, hesitating about pressing the publish button, that Judy eventually exclaimed that I was behaving like what her father used to call a virgin on the verge – will she or won’t she? It made me laugh and I realised that, as usual, I was taking myself far too seriously. I thought of my own father who would have said, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and with the words of both Ted and Roy ringing in my ears, I published my first post. (I have to say that after 5 years it still hasn’t got any easier clicking that publish button.)

I decided to start a blog after having lived on my own at the farm for just over a year. Whenever I returned to Durban, which was quite frequently back then, people asked me what it was like living in the country; did I feel safe on my own, what did I do all day, what was growing in the allotment, did I miss the city lights, where did I shop etc? So I thought I could write about my move to the country and that it would help me to stay in touch with family and friends. And it has done that and more, inasmuch as I have made new friends and reconnected with old friends through my blog. In those early years when I often felt quite isolated here, blogging also helped to give me a much needed sense of connection with “the outside world”.

Quite a few years prior to moving to the country I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and I began writing what she calls “Morning Pages”.

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I find it easier to understand things if I write them down. I’m not good at “thinking on my feet” as it were – I need to mull things over, weigh up the pros and cons and often, even then, I have a tendency to be indecisive. I find that writing is like housework for the mind; it clears away the clutter and helps me to think in a more focussed way. By writing my Pages and subsequently my blog, I have been able to work through many difficulties and resolve countless dilemmas. Of course there is still a ton of shit I haven’t sorted out but life is a work in progress.

So what began as a peek at life in the country, has become a vehicle for some of my soul searching as well. And I would like to thank you all for your incredible support and encouragement. I wouldn’t write a blog if no-one read it, so you have all contributed to my understanding of this wonderful world as I journey through it and for that I am most grateful.


It’s autumn in the Midlands and nothing says that more than the leonotis leonurus (wild dagga) starting to flower.

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I Can See Clearly Now


I think it is a parent’s prerogative to boast about his/her children’s achievements. My parents never did, at least not about me to my knowledge, but I don’t see the harm in telling everyone, including one’s children, just how proud one is of them. Recently Alex passed the 2nd of the two required SAICA board exams and is now a qualified Chartered Accountant. Of course this is a fantastic accomplishment but what really impresses me is the way in which he pursued his goal. I have to admit there were times when I thought he was leaning a bit too hard into the partying side of life but he has managed to get to where he wants to be without any detours. Alex has always been able to pull off the work hard, play hard approach with aplomb. Well done Ali, you have made us proud and happy and very relieved!

give that man a Bells

give that man a Bells

celebrating with friends

celebrating with friends

A couple of weekends ago I spent the morning cleaning our small plunge pool and adjoining pond. It’s an eco-pool, so instead of using chemicals, the water in the pool is circulated through plants in the pond in order to keep it clean and natural. However, the pool still needs to be brushed and vacuumed and the pond requires quite a bit of attention. In fact the amount of maintenance this system requires is quite disproportionate to its size and use, but it is pretty and I like the sound of running water and the froggie chorus in the evening. Like everything else around here, the pond had been neglected and was clogged up with algae and dead plants. By the time I was finished, I had worked up quite a sweat and the pool looked so inviting that I decided to have swim. I was standing on the step in the pool splashing myself with the icy water, doing the whole “should I or shouldn’t I” performance, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something moving just behind me under the wooden boardwalk that separates the pool from the pond. To my horror it materialised into a snake, a red-lipped herald I think, although I didn’t stick around to inspect it more closely. Usually I’m not that scared of snakes but I felt a bit vulnerable and it was a little too close for comfort. With a blood-curdling shriek I leapt into the pool and straight out the other side, which is no mean feat as there are rocks edging the sides of the pool (it’s amazing what a bit of adrenaline can do). When I asked Peter, who was in earshot, why he hadn’t come to my rescue he said he thought I was screaming because the water was cold. Oh, heaven help us!

our eco-pool

our eco-pool

Despite the abrupt end to my first, and probably last, swim in the pool this summer, I was reminded how much I enjoy mucking about outdoors. For me there is nothing better than slogging away all day in the garden (as long as I don’t have to prepare any meals), then having a jolly good scrub down in the shower and climbing into bed physically weary and emotionally content. It made me wonder why I had become such a couch potato. I was stuck in a rut and spending less time doing what I love and more time being a slob. I decided it was time to take stock of my life and, to help with the reflection process, I took myself off for a weekend yoga retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo.

When we lived in Durban, Kiera and I used to do yoga at the lovely Jivananda Wellness Centre run by Christine and Howard. I also used to attend satsangs there once a month where we would do chanting and have discussions on yoga philosophy and other spiritual issues. It would end with a really good bring and share veg breakfast. When I left Durban I missed the Centre very much and never managed to find another yoga class as satisfying. So when I found out that Christine and Howard were running the yoga retreat at the BRC I was delighted. I was also somewhat apprehensive; I didn’t know anyone other than the teachers and I haven’t practiced yoga in years. I needn’t have worried – I met some lovely people (of course), picked up the yoga where I left off, had delicious, wholesome vegetarian meals and spent quite a bit of time meditating. It was a very peaceful and nurturing weekend and it helped create the space for me to start thinking about how to get my life back on track.

I have been spending more and more time off the farm than on it, basically running away from situations that I don’t want to deal with. The main issue that I have been avoiding is my mother, who turned 92 in January. I finally came to terms with the fact that she needs more attention than I have been giving her. I need to start preparing meals for her daily, doing her laundry (she just doesn’t seem to see the dirt!) and being more available to help her with other stuff.

I also realised that I had lost sight of why I felt living in the country was a good idea in the first place. When I first moved here, I imagined myself living a country life, which, in my mind, meant living close to nature, growing my own veggies and being quite self-contained. I also wanted to: live a more healthy life (doing yoga, eating more nourishing food), be more creative (writing my blog, gardening and photography), be involved in community development (through my voluntary teaching and as the fundraiser for the Curry’s Post Education Trust) and really just live a simple, non materialistic life. I still want all these things but I haven’t been devoting my time to achieving them.

I returned from the BRC with greater resolve to stay true to these goals and take less detours en route (perhaps Alex can give me some pointers). Time is of the essence after all.



I found The Magic Faraway Tree

I found The Magic Faraway Tree!












‘Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
~Lao Tzu

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That was the week that was. Ever since I wrote about the need to economise, the ghosts in the machines have been playing up. What began as minor irritations escalated into full-scale calamities. It started with our warming tray blowing up; then one of our water pumps packed in and needed to be completely overhauled; the brush cutter blade broke; the freezer section of our fridge stopped working; our other water pump packed in and required the services of an electrician to get it going again; the printer called it quits; and to top it all the cladding on our south-facing gable wall fell off, totally decimating my bedroom garden.










Until then I had been quite phlegmatic about the small mishaps, despite them really starting to add up. But the collapse of the wall was definitely upsetting. I couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening. Had someone cast the evil eye on us? I decided it was time to take action.

According to the Sicilian Godmother:

Scattering salt on the floor just inside one’s front door, or outside, is one of the ways Sicilians ward off the evil eye. The fact that it is composed of uncountable grains is supposed to create confusion in the mind of the evil-wisher.

So to get rid of our run of bad luck, salt was duly scattered on the floor. And, much to Peter’s amusement, I insisted, for good measure, that we both toss a pinch over our left shoulders (from the legend that the devil is always standing behind you and throwing salt in his eye distracts him from causing trouble). I think it’s my mother’s Irish / Yorkshire influence but I am, I’m embarrassed to admit, surreptitiously superstitious. Most of my superstitious beliefs involve not wanting to tempt fate or jinx something.

I have an irrational aversion to walking under ladders, of shoes being put on a table, killing spiders and umbrellas being opened indoors. I also “touch wood”, or say I’m going to, when I want my good luck to continue.

Do you know why we touch wood?

One explanation states that the tradition derived from the Pagans who thought that trees were the homes of fairies, spirits, dryads and many other mystical creatures. In these instances, people might knock or touch wood to request good luck, or to distract spirits with evil intentions.


I also have since discovered that beliefs or rituals used to ward off evil are known as apotropaism or apotropaic magic.

 Apotropaic magic (from Greek apotrepein “to ward off” from apo- “away” and trepein “to turn”) is a type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye. Apotropaic observances may also be practiced out of vague superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charms, amulets or gestures such as crossed fingers or knocking on wood.


I don’t want to speak too soon but since we took steps to confuse and distract any disgruntled forces, we have been incident free, touch wood.

The other evening I was startled by a scratching noise in the rubble outside our bedroom window. The dogs went ballistic and I shot out of bed. As I peered out of the window I saw a porcupine scuttling along the gravel path. I grabbed my torch and camera and went in search of the critter. I found it hiding under our car. I couldn’t get a decent photo but we had a little chat instead. Well, it was a bit one-sided; I talked and it grunted. I asked it very kindly to bugger off and leave my bulbs alone (porcupines can wreak havoc in a garden). It then seemed to vanish into thin air and I haven’t seen it since. Keep fingers crossed!

Fortunately some parts of my garden are still looking cheerful.


Physostegia virginiana





Kniphofia, also called red hot poker


wild verbascum






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Food Glorious Food

Kiera and James are saving up to buy a house. Alex is an articled clerk with limited income. And Peter and I are both retired and living on a fixed income. We all need to economise (that dreaded word). In times of plenty I’m not averse to spending money impulsively but when belts have to be tightened I can also be quite frugal.

Eating less meat is one way to save money. For many years now I have preferred free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, organic, you name it, meat. Our pork comes from the Dargle Valley; chickens from the Shed in Richmond; lamb from the Karoo; and beef from Woolies on the rare occasions that they have grass-fed / free-range beef in the Howick branch. When the children were younger, I became interested in nutrition and I made up my mind then that organic was the more healthy choice for my family. Over the years, I’ve also become increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that I’m eating something that has been treated inhumanely.

Since free-range / grass-fed is generally more expensive, it stands to reason that we should cut down on our meat consumption in order to save money. The problem is that I’m so used to eating veggies as a side dish, with meat as the hero, that I don’t have a ready, go-to repertoire of vegetarian meals. The trick is to prepare tasty, economical meals, with less / no meat, and without spending ages in the kitchen doing it.

Kiera rustled up a Donna Hay version this potato, kale and chorizo soup for us recently and while it isn’t vegetarian, it doesn’t cast meat in the leading role. It is such a simple recipe but is absolutely delicious.

Nigel Slater’s Classic Caldo Verde recipe


Cook a finely chopped onion and clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced, cook them for a minute or two, then pour in a litre of water or stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft (if they break up then all to the good). Thickly slice 150g of spicy sausage then fry briefly in a non-stick pan. Remove the sausage, leaving the fat behind, and drop it into the soup. Finely shred 2 generous handfuls of kale and stir it into the hot soup. Serve with a small pool of olive oil floating on the surface. Serves 4.


Traditionalists will make this with water, but vegetable or chicken stock deepens the flavour immeasurably. The trick is knowing when to stop tinkering. Caldo verde was a soup born to cope with an empty store cupboard, and gussying it up too much will lose its rustic soul.


Complete as it stands, this warming greens-based broth could be embellished with a few ingredients of your choice. Hide a round of garlic toast in the bottom before you ladle in the broth; introduce some cooked pasta – perhaps the diminutive rice-shaped orzo – or stir in some rinsed canned cannellini beans. Kale is standard, but any of the brassica family will work – the tougher and more fibrous the better.


  1. Kiera used a stick blender to purée the soup (à la Donna Hay) before adding chorizo and kale.
  2. I’ve made it with Swiss chard instead of kale and added some chopped chilli for extra voema (depending on how spicy the sausage is). This requires a bit more cooking after the chard and chilli have been added.     

I’m a fan of sausages. We get ours from the Dargle and this dish is comfort food par        excellence.

Sausage & Gnocchi One Pan

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 large pork sausages
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • 150g gnocchi
  • 1 x 410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • Large handful of baby spinach
  1. Heat oil in pan and fry the sausages and onion until golden.
  2. Stir in the garlic, gnocchi, cannellini beans, stock and plenty of seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through.
  3. Lift the sausages out of the mixture and slice diagonally into 1cm thick slices. Return the slices to the pan and fold through the spinach. Check the seasoning and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Pesto and Tomato Tart

(from Super Foods for Children by Michael van Straten & Barbara Griggs – the blurb reads: Boost your child’s HEALTH and BRAIN POWER with over 120 nutrient-packed superfoods – Kiera and Alex you have a lot to thank me for!)

This is one vegetarian dish that I have done on many occasions and it never fails.

  • 375 g frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 300 ml passata
  • 180g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g pesto sauce
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Roll out the pastry onto a floured baking tray. Crimp the edges with a knife and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Take the baking tray out of the oven and allow the pastry to cool.

Spread the passata over the cooled pastry. Toss the cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil and lay them, flat side down, on the passata. Season with salt and pepper and dot generously with pesto. Return the baking tray to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve the tart garnished with basil leaves.

Note: The last time I made this, I added sliced mozzarella cheese which made it a bit more filling as a meal.

This next recipe may sound like a bit of a palaver but it is well worth it; sweet, sour, salty and vinegary not to mention fresh, crispy and delicious.

Kylie Kwong’s recipe for Celery, Carrot and Cabbage Salad

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 3 small carrot, peeled
  • 1 t white sugar
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced on the diagonal
  • ½ cup (125 ml) malt vinegar
  • 2 Tsp white sugar, extra
  • Finely shredded cabbage (preferably Savoy)
  • Julienned spring onion
  • Beans sprouts
  • Mint leaves
  • 2 Tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch Sichuan pepper and salt
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice the cucumber and carrots lengthways into ribbons. Set aside cucumber and cut carrot into a fine julienne.

Combine the carrot with salt and sugar in a medium bowl, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Blanch celery in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and refresh under cold water. Drain and set aside.

Combine vinegar and extra sugar in a small saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer uncovered for about 1 minute or until slightly reduced. Set aside to cool before stirring through the pickled carrot.

In a large serving bowl, combine the pickled carrot mixture, celery, cabbage, onion, bean sprouts and most of the mint. Pour over combined soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste. Top with the reserved cucumber, remaining mint and sprinkle with seeds.

And for now something a little bit sweet:

Brûléed Fruit with Liqueur and Mascarpone / Greek Yoghurt

  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 – 3 Tbs fruit liqueur (I use crème de cassis)
  • 4 peaches or nectarines, stoned and cut into wedges
  • 3 fresh, ripe figs, quartered
  • 250 g mascarpone (or full cream, Greek yoghurt)

Place half the sugar and the liqueur in a saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the peaches or nectarines and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat, stir in the figs and transfer the fruit and juices to a heatproof serving dish. Allow to cool. Spread the mascarpone (or yoghurt) over the fruit and sprinkle over the remaining sugar.

Now you can either place it under a preheated grill for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has melted and caramelised or simply put it in the fridge for a couple of hours until the sugar melts.


  • I’ve made this with nectarines, peaches, Cape gooseberries, raspberries – whatever fruit is on hand really, especially if it is starting to get a bit past it.
  • I usually make it in individual ramekins.
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