Tomatoes, basil, stracciatella di bufala

My first homegrown tomatoes are better than they look, a little pale and regular for me to trust them on sight. The type is Rouge de Marmande.

Perfect with white sourdough, fresh or toasted, butter, and, on top of slices of tomatoes, a little good quality salt. That’s often been breakfast lately.

And something like this on pasta: heat best olive oil and add finely chopped fresh garlic and some tomato, sliced/chopped according to the type of pasta cooking. Basil from the garden – we’ve got some at the moment – a little chilli finely chopped, some parsley….all as you have convenient or to taste. I don’t cook any of this, but I heat it gently. Stir in stracciatella di bufala or burrata and then mix in the drained pasta.

That’s it. I think it should be a very mild, almost sweet dish, but you can add freshly ground pepper and/or parmesan if you want. Sometimes I start by frying a finely chopped shallot and then after adding the garlic and chilli, turning the heat up high to burn off perhaps half a cup of white wine or rose. It shouldn’t be a piping hot dish either. Warm – luke warm, maybe – is about right.

If you live in Adelaide, getting good tomatoes from the Wayville market (if not other places) is easy. But growing your own seems to be quite easy…unless beginners’ luck has struck again.


Obsessed with tomatoes

In Adelaide this time of year, anybody the least interested in cooking will be thinking of little other than tomatoes, day in and out. We have some sort of heirloom tomatoes growing out the front – whether we will get edible fruit from them, I don’t know, but the bush is happily beavering away, it’s got three stakes holding up some of the branches and it has green tomatoes in abundance.

Meanwhile, I’ve been buying heirloom tomatoes in bulk at the Wayville Farmers’ Market. Once ripe enough, I’ve been frying onions and garlic in ghee (sometimes in olive oil), adding chopped tomatoes and cooking on a low heat until they are disintegrating, and then on a high heat to thicken the sauce. During this process I add a little sugar and salt. After cooling, each batch goes into the freezer. Some will end up in pasta sauces. Some will become curries or chickpea dishes.

The sauce I’m making has a marvelous depth of taste and colour. This is partly due to the rich red, strong-fleshed tomatoes I’ve been using. But I have been adding some black tomatoes too, which I’m sure improves the colour.

And the winner is….bircher muesli in Adelaide

On the hunt.

In the good old days, Jones the Grocer existed on King William Road – a site that’s been empty for a long time now. There, amongst much lovely food, they offered bircher done as you pleased. That is to say, you chose fresh fruit or stewed and, having narrowed it down to the latter, as I always did, you had then to decide which stewed fruit to take this time. The meal you ended up with was large, but in balance!

Chianti Classico Hutt St Adelaide
with quince & rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, orange syrup, toasted pistachios. 16.90
One does not necessarily need choice in bircher, but balance is not optional. Chianti has done various takes on this dish over the years and its new version is the best, an observation that other long standing customers there have also made. The serving size is right; consistency is lovely – not to heavy, not too runny; it is not too sweet; it has a nice proportion of additions to the oats component and it looks exquisite.

Sublime Cafe East Ave Clarence Park
blueberry compote, toasted coconut, chia & honey 14.9
Extremely thick and ultra sweet. Too much like dessert, not enough like breakfast. Not enough like bircher. My dining companion couldn’t finish it but took it home for her kids to eat after dinner.

Trouble and Strife Goodwood Road
Coconut Bircher, apricot, yogurt, nuts + blood orange syrup 14
Sorely lacked balance. A vast plate of oats with a very small pile of apricots to go with it. If it had half the oats, even if they hadn’t decreased the price, I’d be more likely to order it again.

Bricks and Stones Unley Road
Bircher Museli, natural yogurt, coconut, seasonal fruit & nuts 16
Much better balance than Trouble and Strife’s. When you eat bircher, it should be possible to eat fruit as well as oats in every mouthful. It isn’t as elegant as Chianti’s. If it were my local, I’d eat it regularly. But I’d always have Chianti’s at the back of my mind.

Herbs and greens pasta sauce

Ingredients for two

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • one shallot chopped
  • two cloves garlic chopped
  • a couple of good slugs of dry white wine
  • a good sized zucchini chopped
  • a couple of tablespoons pine nuts dry roasted to a light brown
  • flat leafed parsley, perhaps one cup of leaves
  • maybe half a cup or more of pouring cream
  • chopped green rounds from spring onions
  • chopped chives, maybe half a bunch
  • parmesan grated for the table


While the pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan fry the shallots and garlic in the butter until softened. Add the wine and boil until the alcohol is burned off. Add the zucchini and cook at a lively pace, saucepan covered, until the zucchini is soft. Add the cream, pine nuts and parsley. Puree. I continued to add parsley until there was a noticeable green fleck to the sauce.

Keep warm on a very low temperature, season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, stir in the chives and spring onion rounds leaving a handful for decoration. Put drained spaghetti in bowls, add the sauce, mix thoroughly and then sprinkle the green rounds on top.

Parmesan and more pepper are required at the table.

I think when I try this again I will use at least double the zucchini and less cream. I would also like to try vodka rather than the wine, which I thought was a bit sweet. Not clear to me that the pine nuts added to this.

Parsley pesto

The simplest version, made for two.

  • olive oil
  • parsley including stalks – 1.5 bunches for two people – roughly chopped
  • maybe half a cup of pine nuts toasted
  • perhaps a cup of grated parmesan
  • one clove of garlic finely chopped

I layer these in a mixing cup: olive oil, parsley, a little of the garlic, some nuts, parsley, garlic, nuts, olive oil. Mash with a stick blender.

Add several dessert spoons of the pasta stock and then the cheese. Decide whether you’d like more liquid. I put in maybe half a dozen spoonfuls, but it will depend on your preferred consistency and how much olive oil you began with.

Put drained pasta in bowls, add a few spoonfuls of the pesto. Extra cheese and fresh pepper to be added as desired.

At the point of adding stock and parmesan, this simple combination is remarkably sweet. There are many things I might consider adding; for a start salted capers, anchovies, chillies, lemon are all on the table.


chickpea and vegetable soup

Nothing special here, just what was in the cupboard.

  • onion, peeled and chopped
  • carrot, peeled and chopped
  • potato, peeled and chopped
  • garlic, peeled and chopped
  • ghee or oil for cooking (I used grapeseed oil this time)
  • tin of chickpeas, hulled
  • ground cumin, coriander and chilli
  • water or stock
  • plain yoghurt, lemon and freshly ground pepper at the table

Obviously you can vary this at will or convenience. I used two medium carrots, maybe half a kg of potatoes, one onion. The key question may be how sweet you want it – and what colour.

On medium heat sauté the onion until it is softening, add the other vegetables and fry stirring for maybe 5 minutes. Turn heat down and add the garlic – no burning the garlic – and the ground spices. When the spices are thoroughly mixed in, add the water or stock along with the chickpeas. It doesn’t take long to take the skins off, you can do it while the vegetables are frying. It makes a big difference to digestibility, which is a literal pain for some people.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes covered. After the mixture has cooled a little you can puree it. It won’t be best on day one.

Serve alone, with toast or maybe a Middle East bread and with the accompaniments listed in the ingredients.