Grape vine leaves are in abundance at the moment and are sending out lots of growth. I’ve seen grape vines growing in lots of public places and it wouldn’t be difficult to forage some. I’m choosing to pick the vines growing over our fence that come in from our neighbours yard because I know they aren’t sprayed. Pick young leaves around the size of your hand for this recipe. Don’t pick any damaged leaves as the stuffing will just fall out. Try to pick in the morning and don’t pick leaves that are providing grapes with shade. Pick one or two lighter green leaves from each branch/shoot from the under story of the vine. Pick the leaves in early summer. Older leaves are tougher, more fibrous and can be bitter.

40 vine leaves

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion

100 gm uncooked basmati rice

50 gm quinoa

50 gm pine nuts

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon five spice

1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mint, chopped finely

50 ml lemon juice

600ml vegetable stock or water

enough tomato to line base of pot

Wash the vine leaves and cut off stem with scissors. Blanch in salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and then set aside in a tea towel. The leaves will turn a dull olive green.

Fry the onion gently until translucent. Mix dry ingredients and mint together in a bowl. Add cooked onion. I used whole cherry tomatoes to line the base of the pot. You could also line pot with sliced larger tomatoes.

Place a heaped teaspoon of the stuffing on each vine leave and roll up leaf. Start rolling from base of leaf upwards, then firmly tuck sides in. It’s ok to overlap smaller leaves to get a better rolling surface. Pack each rolled leaf firmly next to each other with the flap of the leaf on the bottom. This will stop it unrolling while its being stacked and while its cooking. Keep adding layers until all the rolls are packed in. Put a plate on top layer of the vines to stop them from moving in the water. Mix the lemon juice and stock and pour over the plate and bundles.

Bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the pot before removing.

Minestrone soup

At this time of year I can’t go past whipping up a pot of minestrone soup to get a hit of all the flavours from the garden right now – garlic, bay leaves, parsley, basil, tomatoes, zucchini, silver beet. The recipe changes depending on what in season.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 onion

1 red capsicum

4 carrots

4 zucchinis

1 bunch silver beet

2 cups over ripe cherry tomatoes

1.7 litres of stock

1/2 cup chopped herbs (parsley, basil)

2 fresh bay leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 cup rinsed red lentils

Put pot on medium heat. I chop as I go, wandering in and out of kitchen into garden to find more things to add and this gives time for the vegetables to fry and caramelise a bit which gives extra flavour.  Add olive oil and onions. Dice the red capsicum and add to onions. Stir as you add each ingredient. Peel and dice the carrots, add and stir. Dice the zucchinis, add and stir. Rinse the silver beet, dice and add. Its fine to add the chopped stems. Stir. Get the cherry tomatoes point the hole where the tomato was attached the plant downward. Squeeze the seeds into the pot and twist the tomato and drop it in the pot all in one action. Do this for every cherry tomato. Don’t blend the tomatoes as the broken seeds will add a bitter flavour to the soup. Use your hands for this.

Add stock (I use vegetable), herbs, bay leaves, vinegar, garlic and lentils to the pot. Bring to boil then simmer for 3 hours. This makes the most unbelievably delicious hearty vegetable soup. Serve on it’s own or with sourdough and b.d farm butter.


This year had a very long winter and my tomatoes have been very slow going. I really hope the tomato season gets going soon. In previous years the tomatoes have been pumping at this time of year starting at the beginning of December and finishing up around March.


Previously, I grew these cherry tomatoes on a simple tent like bamboo structure which worked well. The only downside was the ones growing on the inside needed specialist picking, luckily I had the perfect person with keen eyes to find them. The six plants were very prolific and supplied us with plenty of tomatoes.


Later in the season at the end of March I bought two big boxes of South Australian sauce tomatoes from the local fruit shop to make into tomato passata. There are lots of ways to make it and everyone who does make it seems to have their own special way to do it. A few of the ways to do it ask for the skin and seeds to be removed. I much prefer the idea of using all the fruit so that’s what I did. Also, I read that there is a spike in hospital admissions of people that have had sauce bottles explode in their face and burn them so I took that into account when experimenting with my first rather small batch of 20 kilos. I tried a couple of ways to do it and settled on a recipe I was happy with.

Twenty kilos sounds like a lot but it was so good we used the passata in everything. The flavour really was pretty amazing and I can see now why people devote a whole weekend to preserving this beautiful fruit. To work out how much our family uses in a year I have been saving all our passata jars to get an idea of exactly how much of this we actually eat. I will recycle these jars and use them to preserve the following years supply.

Passata recipe


1 kg of tomatoes will make around 750 ml passata

Wash the tomatoes well and cut of any bad bits. Slice tomatoes in big chunks eg – four to six pieces, and place in big pot. Put pot on stove on medium heat. The juices should start being released from the tomatoes. Once they have released enough tomato juice get a stick blender and puree. Simmer the tomato puree until fragrant, 15 – 20 mins or so. Put puree into pre-washed and sterilised jars and seal lids. I used a combo of fowlers jars and supermarket passata bottles, you can also use beer bottles.

Get a preserving unit. I used an old one I picked up off Gumtree that has a built in thermometer. Our next door neighbour uses a large drum over a fire. Use whatever you have. Put a towel at the bottom of the unit and then start stacking the bottles in with tea towels, cloth, rags, newspaper (whatever you have on hand) to separate the bottles so they don’t break when the water is boiling. Fill the drum with cold water and slowly bring to the boil. I heated up my unit on the BBQ. Using the BBQ kept the kitchen cool and meant that I didn’t have to move it when hot to use my stove. Make sure the water boils for at least 30 mins and then turn the heat off.

Don’t try to remove the bottles at this stage as you might end up in hospital. Leave the bottles in the unit overnight and remove when cold the next morning. Store bottles somewhere dark until ready to eat. Enjoy.

Eggplant and tomatoes

This is the best time of year to eat eggplants and tomatoes. Eggplants somehow like being punished by the long hot Adelaide summer. A few hills dwellers have told me they don’t have much luck with eggplants but they do grow really well on the Adelaide Plains. Tomatoes are also in abundance. I came across this dish at a local restaurant specialising in food from Afghanistan. This dish brings all the great flavours of summer together. It also uses South Australian produce in season and at it’s best – eggplants, tomatoes, olive oil, chili, garlic, coriander.

Borani Banjan

2 large eggplants sliced length ways into 1cm slices

1/4 cup extra virgin oil

1 cup sliced tomatoes

4 cloves crushed garlic

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 fresh chili minced

salt & pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup coriander finely chopped

greek style yogurt (optional)

dried powdered mint (optional)

Prepare the eggplant first by placing slices of eggplant on a baking tray. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 180C until the eggplant is starting to soften.

While the eggplant is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in small pan on medium heat. Add garlic and soften for a minute.

Add spices and cook for another minute. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Then layer the ingredients like a lasagna in a baking dish. Add sauce first, then half the eggplant, then half the coriander, then all the tomatoes. Top with the egplant and rest of coriander. Finish by drizzling rest of sauce so it coats the eggplant.

Bake for 45 mins. Traditionally it is served with a drizzle of yogurt and dried mint. Serve with brown lentils and rice.