Summer Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian

Eggplant and tomato are combined with a smoky, spicy tomato sauce and baked until tender and sweet. This is a celebration of the end of summer and the most beautiful bounty straight from the garden.

Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished LifeChris’s parents must have been surprised when he brought me home for dinner the first time – here was their omnivorous, bacon-loving son bringing home a hippy-dippy gluten free vegetarian. I know I was nervous, and mostly I was afraid of putting them out. When you are the ‘weird dietary needs girl’ you are always worried about causing people extra stress around meal times. But, Chris’s parents took it in their stride and cooked up a perfect dinner that everyone could enjoy. In the last two-plus years that Chris and I have been together we have enjoyed countless family dinners and every time Ruth (Chris’s mum) creates something new, exciting, and delicious to suit my funny tummy (as a trade I provide dessert offerings).

Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished LifeRuth makes the most beautiful crustless quiches and zucchini and rice bake, but last time she tried a new recipe and it was one of my favourites yet. She started with three fat shiny obsidian eggplants, then topped them with a variety of summer sweet tomatoes – some from her own garden – and a gorgeous olive oil, verjuice, and tomato-based sauce. We sipped some beautiful white wine and watched the sun set over the mountainside as the whole lot baked away in the oven. Just before it finished cooking Ruth sprinkled the dish with pine nuts and feta and slid it back in so the feta could soften and the nuts could toast.

Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished LifeOn a cool, late summer night we sat on their deck with our wine and shared dishes of Ruth’s perfectly baked eggplant dish along with slices of grilled sweet potato (and steak for the omnivores). It was a wonderful moment in time, and since that dinner I haven’t been able to get that eggplant dish out of my mind. My twist on the dish is a little different to Ruth’s divine summer night creation. I have spiced mine with paprika and sumac to highlight the smokiness of the eggplant, and swapped almonds for pine nuts (you could use either). Time in the oven transforms eggplants from a spongy odd vegetable into a silken and soft wonder. When you pair eggplants with their best friends tomato and garlic, magic happens. This dish is the definition of a late summer evening for me.

Summer Eggplant and Tomato Bake is the best ingredient for your next relaxed evening at home. You chop the eggplant, layer it in your dish with tomatoes, red onions and a tomato sauce, and then let the oven do the rest. It makes a great light meal when paired with a green salad, or you could serve it with a scoop of herbed quinoa (try this one) for a heartier evening meal. If you are cooking for a crowd, you will love this dish because you can easily double or triple the recipe and it’s so easy to make. Sometimes the simplest things: perfectly in-season vegetables; a glass of wine on a summer night; and time with family are the most nourishing to mind, body and soul. Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Summer Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Serves 2 | Easily multiplied

Make it vegan: leave out feta from topping.


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 punnet (250 grams / 1/2 pound) cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup verjuice (or dry white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 60 grams Greek feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
  • For serving: basil, side salad, or grains.


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
  2. Slice your eggplant into ~1cm (1/2 inch) slices. Peel red onions and chop into quarters.
  3. Whisk together tomato paste, verjuice (or wine), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, sumac, oregano, and garlic.
  4. In a small baking dish (mine was about 10 inches by 7 inches) place one layer of eggplant slices, tuck half the onion quarters in the gaps and sprinkle over half the tomatoes. Spoon half the sauce over this layer.
  5. Repeat with remaining eggplant, onion, tomatoes and sauce.
  6. Bake for two hours, checking occasionally for burning. 10 minutes before you remove the dish from the oven sprinkle feta and chopped onions over the top.
  7. Remove from oven and serve with a few sprigs of basil and a green salad.

Eggplant and Tomato Bake | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished LifeThis is my favourite time of the year indeed.

Also: My friend Matt from Bent on Better interviewed me for his podcast – and it went live today! Head on over to listen to me talking about what makes a Thoroughly Nourished Life.

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Gluten Free

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Last week at work I got the news that I am going to be working in one of our other teams for the next two and a bit weeks. The work I am going to be doing isn’t particularly hard, but it requires more focus than my usual position, and is great practical experience in things I only studied on a theoretical basis in my post-graduate study. Naturally, I am nervous as all hell.

I know this weakness in myself. When faced with a shift in focus, a challenge that I know in my logical mind that I am perfectly capable of achieving, my not-so-logical mind takes over and pumps up the anxiety levels.

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

I wish I could approach work challenges and changes the way I approach challenges in the kitchen: work out the science, be methodical in the creating, put all my heart and soul into it, and see how it goes. Lose or win I have tried my best and (most of the time) the results are yummy, or I learn from the experience and take those lessons into my next attempt.

What I’m saying is, I wish my work-life could be more like pie. Pastry has never been my strong suit, and gluten free pastry has been on the list of challenges that I have yet to attempt with gusto. But, on the weekend, I strapped on my big-girl panties apron, got out my frozen butter, various flours, and got my hands dirty experimenting with a basic press-in pie crust. This summer is going to be the Great Pie Experiment summer, which is going to mean lots of challenges, a few failures, lots of learning, and some leaps of faith. )Also a lot of running and lifting of weights.)

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeThis tart crust is the best to start with if you are either: a) new to cooking pies and tarts (like moi), b) new to cooking gluten free, or c) afraid of cooking things that fall into category  a) or b). There is no kneading, rolling, lifting, cutting or any such tricky thing involved in this savoury tart. You simply make up the crust, allow it to chill for a while, then press the crumbs evenly into a lined and oiled tart pan. It’s just like making shortbread.

The trickiest thing is getting your crust even along the bottom and the sides, and if you make a few mistakes there, no one will know because we load the center of the tart with fresh summer tomatoes, herbs, and fresh mozzarella cheese. If someone does notice, tell them it’s a rustic summer tart. ‘Rustic’ forgives all inconsistencies.

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeAfter some time in the oven, the tomatoes will have deepened and sweetened their natural flavour, and the bright soft baby mozzarella will have melted into cheesy pockets. Trust me, you want cheesy pockets in your life. The reward vs. output for this gluten free savoury tart is high. This is a challenge you can win.

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished LifeSummer Tomato and Herb Tart

Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Serves 4 -6 as a light meal

Note: If you do not require this to be gluten free, just use 140 grams (about 1 cup) of plain flour in place of the first four ingredients.
Note: Xanthan gum is available in supermarkets and health food stores. It helps with the elasticity of the dough.


  • 35 grams sorghum flour
  • 35 grams brown rice flour
  • 35 grams white rice flour
  • 35 grams buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 50 grams butter, frozen
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
  • 275 grams (about 8 small) roma tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • 100 grams mini bocconcini (or firm fresh mozzarella)


  1. Measure your flours and xanthan gum into a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  2. Use a box grater to grate your frozen butter into your flour. This is the best way to get small pieces of butter into your dough. Gently ‘rub’ your butter into the flour until it looks like a course meal. You can use your hands or a pastry cutter to do this.
  3. Add salt and pepper and lightly mix to distribute.
  4. Measure in 3 tablespoons of iced water and stir until the dough starts to come together.
  5. Tip crumbly dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Do not bother trying to knead it all together. Wrap tightly and press into a flat disc. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
  7. Oil the bottom and side well of a 7-inch (18 cm) removable bottom tart tin, and line the bottom with baking paper.
  8. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator, tip into the bottom of the tart tin and press dough even around the bottom and up the sides of the tin.
  9. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the bottom looks dry but is still pale.
  10. Slice tomatoes in half and place in partially baked tart shell cut side up. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and dot the mozzarella between the tomatoes.
  11. Bake for a further 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have started to blister and the mozzarella is melted.
  12. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving with a large green salad.

Okay dear readers, who is ready for this challenge? What should my next pastry experiment be?

Summer Tomato and Herb Tart | Vegetarian | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Parsley Ricotta Fritters with Balsamic Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Breakfast for dinner has to be one of the greatest inventions of the modern world, and a lifesaver for busy after work dinners or lazy Sunday nights. Fritters are the perfect choice for a breakfast styled dinner: all the happiness of a stack of pancakes (minus the sugar) with a satisfyingly savoury styling (plus the bonus of vegetables).

Parsley Ricotta Fritters with Balsamic Roasted Grape Tomatoes | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

These fritters made an appearance on our table early this week and they have already become a favourite. They are a blank canvas for whatever toppings you most desire but, if you want my honest opinion, you need to make the balsamic roasted tomatoes as a chic breakfast-for-dinner take on sloppy diner grilled tomatoes. These tomatoes are the window dressing that spice up the soft, cheesy fritters. They only take 30 minutes to roast in the oven (plenty of time to make the fritters and assemble a salad) but they taste like they have been blistering for hours. The trick is to coat them lovingly at a high heat in balsamic vinegar and oil, and to choose small, sweet tomatoes. The heat from the oven will bring forth the sugars stored within the tomatoes. When you pair the sweet tomatoes with the tart balsamic vinegar you create a fritter topping that will have you craving more. If you end up with leftover tomatoes, try them stirred into freshly cooked pasta and topped with a shower of cheese, or top your morning avocado on toast with a pile of these sweet and tart gems.

Parsley Ricotta Fritters with Balsamic Roasted Grape Tomatoes | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Parsley isn’t the most loved of herbs, and not my favourite, but I love this slightly outmoded curly leaf for its bright green, flamenco curled leaves and clean, slightly grassy taste. When parsley meets cheese (in this case ricotta and cheddar) magic happens – there is a reason Mama always said to stir parsley into your cheese sauce. Then the whole lot is spiced up with a decent dose of fresh ground black pepper – my favourite ingredient for adding spice to any meal.

These fritters are my offering for Weeknight Nourishment this week. Breakfast for dinner is the first thing that comes to mind when I am trying to think of a quick dinner that both of us will enjoy, and fritters are the ultimate in breakfast for dinner that still includes vegetables and feels slightly grown-up. The batter comes together easily, and if you don’t have parsley in the fridge, just throw in whatever herbs you have at hand. I serve mine with a salad, and some crispy bacon on the side for Chris. And bonus – leftovers make great lunches.

Parsley Ricotta Fritters with Balsamic Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Makes 8 fritters and about 2 cups tomatoes (both easily multiplied)

For serving: a runny poached egg would take this meal to the next level and for omnivores perhaps add some crispy bacon.


  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup low fat smooth ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated cheddar
  • Cooking spray (spray olive oil in our house)


  1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil and spread tomatoes out in one layer. Pour over olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Gently shake baking sheet to ensure all tomatoes are coated. Bake for 3o minutes or until the skins of the tomatoes start to split.
  2. While tomatoes are cooking: in a medium mixing bowl whisk together white rice flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together ricotta, eggs, and milk.
  4. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  5. Add parsley and cheddar to batter and stir gently to fully combine.
  6. Heat a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Spray with cooking oil.
  7. Place heaped tablespoonfuls of batter onto pan two at a time, allowing room for the batter to spread.
  8. Cook for 3 minutes on the first side or until small bubbles have risen to the surface of the uncooked side. Flip fritter and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.
  9. To serve: Place fritters on plates, spoon over roasted tomatoes and their juices. Try serving with a green salad and some butter avocado.

Parsley Ricotta Fritters with Balsamic Roasted Grape Tomatoes | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Thoroughly Nourished Life

One Pan Tomato Pasta

We’ve spoken before about how Tuesdays are hard. But you know what? Tuesdays can be amazing as well. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Perspective is a lesson that my Mum tried her hardest to teach my sister and I as we were growing up. The way you view your life is a choice that you and you alone get to make.

As Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote ‘If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.’

So Tuesday: it was busy, but with some perspective I saw the day as full of great things to do and achieve. Like making dinner for the man I love after a long day at work for both of us and with a long night of laundry and university work ahead.


This one pan tomato  pasta was a perfect fit for a busy night. The rain was tap tapping on the roof of the cottage by the bay and while Chris and I were doing housework and laundry, I set a pot filled with water and all the ingredients on the stove and let it bubble away with little interference from me. Thirty minutes later we had a filling meal fit for two (and leftovers for Wednesday) and hardly any washing up to do. I was initially a little sceptical when I saw this cooking method on Martha Stewart, but when it went viral I knew that I had to give it a try.

Pot and bowls

My perspective now: I am so glad we had this for dinner! The pasta was perfectly al dente, the sauce thickened around the pasta and clung to each piece, and because it cooks in the sauce the flavours infuse the pasta. There is no shortage of sauce here and the cheese melts lovingly atop this bowl of flavoursome, healthy, easy dinner. This pasta is perfect for laundry nights, soccer practice nights, and nights where you would rather spend more time on the couch watching True Detective than cooking or cleaning dishes.

One Pan Tomato Pasta

(gluten free, vegetarian)

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4


  • 250 grams gluten free penne (I use San Remo)
  • 1 brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, chunkily diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 400 gram can cherry tomatoes (or equal amount fresh)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon powdered vegetable stock
  • Generous cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • Grated parmesan, to serve


  1. Place penne, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano, olive oil, chili flakes, cherry tomatoes, water, and powdered vegetable stock into a large saucepan and set over medium heat.
  2. Bring to the boil and set your timer for 10 minutes. Stir regularly. When the pasta has 3 minutes left to cook add frozen peas.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chopped sundried tomatoes.
  4. Divide between bowls and top with grated parmesan.
  5. Enjoy.
And this is the hungry sous chef...

And this is the hungry sous chef…

Garden Vegetable and Olive Pasta Bake (gluten free)

Reason number 40,598,235 why I love Chris: he loves pasta as much as I do. In fact, one of the first things I ever cooked for him was some sort of tomato and pasta dish. We ate it sitting cross-legged on his bed talking to each other, learning about each other, still fresh and new and unsure of where this was all going to lead. And now here we are on a Monday night still making pasta and sitting among tangled sheets; talking and laughing and debriefing about our day and making the most of every moment we have to be together.


This pasta bake is perfect for those nights when you want to spend less time in the kitchen, and more time catching up with your family. You simply boil the pasta and at the same time make the sauce, then add the two together and leave it in the oven for half an hour. A half hour in which you could make a cup of tea for yourself and your loved one and de-stress, or play fetch with your dog, or even take a glorious nap (just remember to set your timer volume to loud!).

The resulting dish is satisfyingly dense with a sweet and savoury tomato flavour punctuated by the vegetables, which melt into one another during their time in the oven. I like using tinned cherry tomatoes because I love being surprised by a mouthful of baby tomato sometimes. If you aren’t a fan of olives you can leave them out, but they do add a certain umami flavour that banishes any Monday blues.

This pasta bake is great the next day too, which is perfect if you love leftovers after your Tuesday gym date (like Chris and I), or if you want something delicious for lunch that will make all your colleagues jealous.


Gluten Free Tomato and Olive Pasta Bake (gluten free, vegetarian)

Serves 6. This is delicious accompanied by a large leafy salad (or meatballs if you are that way inclined). Be sure to only cook your pasta to al dente because it will continue to cook while it is in the oven, and you don’t want mushy pasta. A good guide for this is to choose the shortest cooking time suggested on the box/bag of pasta that you choose to use. I love the San Remo gluten free range because it tastes and feels like gluten-full pasta – and Chris likes it too.


  • 250 grams dried gluten free pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium capsicum
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 x 400 gram tins cherry tomatoes (or diced tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon diced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon diced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup black olives, sliced in half
  • ½ cup shredded cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C (356F) and put a large saucepan of water on to boil. There should be enough water that your pasta will be able to float freely. I boil the kettle first and use this in the saucepan as it boils much faster.
  2. Once the water in the saucepan is boiling add your dried pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until al dente (see notes above). Then drain well and set aside until needed.
  3. While the pasta is cooking finely dice the carrot, onion, celery and garlic. De-seed and thinly slice the capsicum.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add carrot, onion, celery and capsicum. Cook until the carrot has softened a little and the onion is translucent.
  5. Add garlic, herbs, tinned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil. Then turn the sauce to low and simmer for ten minutes. Add olives right at the end and stir to distribute.
  6. Combine pasta and sauce and spoon into a medium-size ovenproof dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and place in pre-heated oven.
  7. Cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Spoon out onto plates and serve with tossed green salad.


Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew with Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread

I have spoken before of my difficult relationship with winter. There is something about the empty cold blue sky and long windy nights that leaves me feeling expectant somehow (no, not that kind of expectant), restless, waiting for spring. One thing I do love about winter though is the long walks I take in the mornings, and the stories that I listen to along the way. I am currently obsessed with historical podcasts, in particular ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class‘ (I am currently working my way through their back catalogue) and the podcast produced by The National Archives.


Some of my fondest memories as a child are the nights when either Mum or Dad would read to my sister and I before we fell asleep. When Jess and I shared a bedroom, Mum would settle herself between our twin beds and read to us from ‘Listen with Mother’ (a book produced from the BBC radio show of the same name). ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ she would ask. My sister and I would reply with a sleepy chorus of ‘yes’, and Mum would begin to weave a story in her smooth, perfect voice. Other nights my Dad would be on storytelling duty. These were the nights that Jess and I would be allowed to fall asleep in Mum and Dad’s big bed. All three of us would pile into their water bed, Dad snuggled in between, our very own captive storyteller. With his glasses perched on the end of his nose so that he could see on the awkward angle he was forced into. He would crack open ‘Stuart Little‘ or ‘The Giant Baby‘ and read us a chapter or two until our heads would drop back onto the pillows.


Listening to stories about historical figures or events makes me feel like I am back inside the cocoon of comfort woven during those story-filled nights. I am lost in the world of whichever character or adventure is the topic of discussion. From the strange life of Margery Kempe, to the spine-tingling true story of Broadmoor Hospital, or the real life pirate story of Stede Bonnet, I am kept captivated by the tale until the very last minute. Long winter nights are similarly made for tales – true or fantastic. A belly full of something warm and satisfying is all you need before settling back in your favourite chair with a book, or a podcast, or your favourite storyteller and losing yourself in the pursuit of adventure.


Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Stew

For the beef to most satisfyingly fall from the bones and melt into the thick vegetable and wine stew this must cook for at least four hours. A longer cooking time of six hours will render the flesh so tender and flavoursome that angels and demons will weep together. There was little conversation at our dinner table last night as Mum and Dad scooped their bowls of stew out with Rosemary and Pecorino Cornbread (recipe follows). Make this on a weekend when you can curl up comfortably with a book while the scent of red wine and paprika fills the house and drives away the coldest winter day.

A note about wine: I used Lambrusco because my Dad loves it and the rest of the bottle didn’t go to waste. You can use whatever your favourite red wine is, and then serve the leftovers with dinner (or drink it while you wait for dinner to cook – we don’t judge in my house).


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 chunky beef short ribs (about 800 grams)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, chunkily chopped
  • 3 small-medium potatoes, diced
  • 400 gram tin tomato purée
  • 400mL red wine (measured in tomato tin)
  • 1L beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF) and arrange oven racks to accommodate a large casserole dish.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stove top safe oven-proof casserole dish with a lid. Brown the beef short ribs on each side and then remove to a plate. Add celery, onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until the onion is clear.
  3. Tumble the capsicum, carrot and potatoes into the dish and add the paprika and thyme leaves. Stir so that all the vegetables are coated. Cook for about 5 minutes with the lid off.
  4. Add the short ribs back into the dish and add the bay leaves, tomato purée, red wine and beef stock. Give the mixture a big stir so that all the ingredients are covered by the liquid.
  5. Bring casserole to a simmer. Remove from the stove top and place in the preheated oven.
  6. Cook for four to six hours. Give the casserole a stir every forty-five minutes. At the end of the cooking time you may want to thicken up the sauce a little. Simply remove the beef ribs and in a small glass mix together one tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch) and one tablespoon cold water and stir this into the stew. Bring to a bubble on the stove top again and then replace the short ribs.
  7. Serve in big deep bowls with a decent chunk of cornbread. And maybe a little butter too. And wine, definitely wine (or red fizzy drink for Mum).


Rosemary Pecorino Cornbread (gluten free)

Just a few notes: one, I used fine grain polenta, not the the quick cooking or pre-prepared kind in the US this is probably labelled cornmeal; two, you can replace the buckwheat flour with plain flour if you are not cooking for a coeliac. If you cannot find pecorino cheese use a sharp cheddar or parmesan instead.


  • 160 grams fine grain polenta
  • 80 grams buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten free)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary)
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). If you are cooking this at the same time as the short ribs above, 170ºC will be fine and may just require a few more minutes to cook. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together polenta, buckwheat flour, salt, black pepper, and baking powder.
  3. Whisk in rosemary and pecorino. Set aside for the moment.
  4. In a small jug measure out the buttermilk. Into this whisk the olive oil and eggs until thoroughly combined.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and briskly mix in the wet ingredients.
  6. Pour batter into lined tin and slide into the oven.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool, or not, before serving with a steaming hot bowl of soup, or simply a generous dob of butter.


Tell me, dear reader, what are your childhood memories of storytelling? Any favourite books? Do you still like listening to a soothing voice telling tales of adventure and daring?

Summer Sweat and Roasted Tomato Thyme Soup

The first footsteps crush grass under foot and the evening air draws the heat of the day from the bitumen.

We reach the midway point sweating in the still summer night as we turn for home.

Laughing and tumbling into the house and filling the rooms with noise, and humour, and love.

Into the kitchen, inspiration strikes when I see the gift of freshly plucked tomatoes sitting on the bench and see my herb garden in the fading light outside my window.

Slicing open plump red fruit flesh. Feeling the cooling ground beneath my feet as I venture out to gather from my garden.

The first waves of heat hit the tiny branches of thyme and send the rainy earthen smell wafting throughout the house.

Tomatoes nestled together like lovers whispering secrets begin to blister and melt, weeping sweet nectar until they bubble contentedly.

They will stay there while I refresh myself. My run swept away the stresses of the day; the walk slowed my pulse and brought me deeper peace. I am ready to nourish myself with gifts from my neighbour’s labour and my own earth.

Roughly blended and poured still steaming into my bowl. Sprinkled with crisp spring onions and creamy sharp cheddar, the trifecta of colours and a testament to salty, crispy, and creamy.

A thoroughly nourished body: sweaty run and roasted soup.

A thoroughly nourished soul: time to walk with my Mama.

The beginning of summer.

Roasted Tomato Thyme Soup

I used very ripe heirloom variety tomatoes that had been gifted to me, but I believe that you could use any type of tomato as the roasting time will draw out the sweetness and juice. The riper and more flavoursome your tomatoes though, the more richly bodied your soup will be. If you are vegan, simply leave the cheddar off the top.

Be very careful when blending this soup. DO NOT use a blender as hot liquids expand and you may burn yourself very badly. If you wish to use a blender, cool the roasted mixture completely, blend, and then reheat. 

Serves 2 -4


  • 2 kilograms tomatoes (about 8-10 large tomatoes)
  • 2 medium purple onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled vintage cheddar (I am in love with Maleny Dairies – my local)


  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (390°F). Line a deep-sided baking tin with baking paper (or aluminium foil) and set aside.
  2. Roughly quarter tomatoes and slide into the baking tin. Peel and quarter onions and add to the baking dish. Peel garlic and tuck the cloves under the tomatoes so that they will melt into the stewing tomatoes rather than crisp.
  3. Sprinkle the tomato, onion, and garlic mosaic with thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over the top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The longer you leave this in the oven the further it will reduce and concentrate.
  5. Remove baked tomatoes from the oven. Pour into a large bowl (very large) and use a stick blender to roughly blend the mixture. Be very careful.
  6. Divide among bowls and top with spring onion and  cheese.

This soup reheats wonderfully and I think it tastes even better on the second day.

My dear readers, do you grow any of your own vegetables? Do your neighbours?

What is your favourite seasonal summer fruit or vegetable?

Spring smiles, or, tomato, butter bean, and brown rice salad

The first were handed over with a shy smile, and were clutched in my still winter-numb hands like precious amber and citrine nuggets. The next week as I exclaimed over the wondrous flavour of the previous week’s bounty, the smile grew wider. Summer bloomed, and brought with it more fragrant delights, tiny jewels moved from amber and citrine to garnet and deepest ruby. Firm, tart, and spring sharp melted with the lengthening hours of sunshine and became plump, ripened, and strained against their skin with sweet juices. The smiles grew wider too, and laughter followed.

Sadly, summer came to an end, and the final harvest was mourned and celebrated: a ritual to fortify me with sunshine through the winter, until the new spring breezes blew fair weather our way again. But the smiles lasted through winter, through chapped mornings, and windy weather, freezing rain and hurried, scurried, greetings and partings. The smiles were the summer harvest that never had to end.

This week the spring wind danced through the city streets, the sun stayed longer and longer in the sky, and the cold left only traces of itself in the wee hours of morning. A bright smile lit my face this week when I noticed the spring bounty atop the rickety wooden table. A sign taped below read: ‘hand-picked yesterday at our farm in Beaudesert’ – complete with pictures of my summer/winter friends out in the fields. I lined up with the other eager faces, sort of like mine but without the ebullient appreciation I must verbalise for how much I enjoy the produce, and how happy I am to see little amber and garnet gems appearing again.

I smile, and receive smiles in return. I claim two punnets as my own. My friend empties in half the contents of a third, and adds two gleaming Granny Smith apples to the bag. ‘Just for you’ she says, with another smile.

Spring is here.

Tomato, butter bean, and brown rice salad

The best way to enjoy new season grape tomatoes, or if you can’t find these gems try cherry tomatoes. When winter meets spring I always get a taste for things with a little more acidity, the clean, sharp tastes seem to strip away some of the cloying richness of winter foods and leave my taste buds ready to experience the delicate flavours of spring, and their promise of summer’s richer bounty. Here, I have used lemon juice to sharpen the flavour of the salad, and peppery rocket to lift the rich brown rice. You can use milder baby spinach if you prefer.

This serves 2.


  • 3/4 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 can of butter beans (or other white beans such as cannellini), drained
  • 2 spring onions
  • Large handful of rocket leaves
  • 8 oil-packed semi-dried tomatoes
  • 8 large black olives
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil (I use the oil the tomatoes are packed in)
  • Large pinch each of ground black pepper and salt
  • Large punch of dried oregano


  1. Place rice in a saucepan and cover with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil over medium heat, uncovered. Once it has reached boiling point, turn the heat down and cover with saucepan lid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then, turn off the heat and allow rice to sit for another 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Wash tomatoes, and then slice in half lengthwise. Rinse butter beans until water runs clear, drain well. Slice spring onions including most of the upper parts of the green stems. Dice the semi-dried tomatoes and pit and dice the olives.
  3. In a large bowl combine halved tomatoes, butter beans, spring onions, semi-dried tomatoes, and olives. Add rocket leaves.
  4. For the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Add to the salad mixture.
  5. Spoon rice into the salad mixture, and gently toss the whole salad together.

If you are dining solo, the left overs make a lovely lunch or dinner the next day. I like to add a little steamed broccoli on the second day, or some corn kernels. Enjoy.

I am planning on sharing my favourite salads as we head into summer here in Australia.

Tell me dear reader, do you have a favourite salad ingredient? Mine is obviously fresh tomatoes!