Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Raspberry Jam and Christmas

When we women in the Mackay family decided to de-commercialise Christmas and make home made gifts my Mum was stuck on just what to give my brothers.  Then she remembered how much they loved her raspberry jam so out came the retired preserving pan.  She made them a six pack each and my brothers would be slightly dissappointed if their gift every year wasn't raspberry jam.

Photographs of raspberry jam production by Lynn Dunn, beside  the southern Christmas Tree,
the Pohutakawa, no doubt grown in their Ribbonwood Nursery, Dunedin.
My cousin Lynn makes the same delicious, pure raspberry red, runny jam that Mum used to make.  When we lived in Dunedin she would deliver us a jar every Christmas.

My Mum Claire and Lynn's Mum Coline were  first cousins and life long friends so naturally they visited each other whenever they could.  Lynn and sister Heather were our city cousins and we their country cousins.  They would enjoy the freedom of life on the farm and we would love the experience of city life.  

From left to righty:  Heather, Me holding my brother Jamie, Lynn and my sister Kerry
in the backyard at our farm in Riversdale.
While I watched my mother make lots of raspberry jam, I have not actually made the jam myself.  To let us all into the secret of how to make a good raspberry jam I have enlisted the help of Lynn who lives in Dunedin.

"I always like to make this jam at Christmas time as the new season's berries are just becoming available. We often take a drive out to McArthurs on the Taieri Plain to buy their delicious local raspberries. It's a good excuse too, to pick up a fresh fruit icecream - another of our family traditions!

It's such an easy jam to make as it only requires a short cooking time and is self-setting - no setting agents needed. Fresh raspberries seem to deliver a better flavour and a glossier appearance.
This traditional recipe simply uses equal weights of berries and sugar.     
The fruit is cooked on a low heat for a few minutes until the berry structure has started to break down. The heat is then turned up and the sugar added slowly while maintaining a good boil.

After 3 or 4 minutes I test the consistency by putting a bit onto a cold saucer and then remove from the heat as soon as it forms a slight skin. 

We prefer the jam to be a bit runny and not too stiff.

Pour into sterilised jars and seal. It takes a couple of days to set fully."
Thank you Lynn.

I can remember the excitement when the local store called to say the raspberry order had arrived from Central Otago.  Mum would get the raspberries in a large tin pail. We knew that night we would be eating lots of raspberries sprinkled with icing sugar and accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.   Some of the raspberries would go into the freezer but the rest was used to make the year's supply of raspberry jam.  I don't remember what happened to the tin pails but I'd like to think they were returned to the growers as it was a time before throw away packaging.

Coline (left) and Claire (right)  the best of friends
and its thanks to our dear Mums that gifts of  raspberry jam have
 become a tradition at Christmas 

I am more of a marmalade and jelly maker from fruit I get for next to nothing or for free.  Lynn tells me that for 2 kilos of raspberries costing $18.50 she can make 10 jars of raspberry jam.

 If you haven't the desire to make your own jam or don't have a jam maker in the family, then the next best thing is to buy a good quality jam.  My favourites are Butlers Berries Raspberry and Redcurrant jam from Waimate, South Canterbury and Te Horo Raspberry jam from Otaki just north of Wellington. 

Humidity is not at all kind to jam makers. You need a clear sunny day.  I am inspired by Lynn's raspberry jam recipe to give it a go while in sunny Hawkes Bay over the Christmas break.  Close to good supplies of fresh raspberries and the clear air will be perfect for making jam.

Sadly, jam has far too much sugar to be a health food.  But you can eat as many fresh raspberries as you like... in fact gorge yourself on raspberries to lose weight (minus the cream mind).  There are many health benefits of this low calorie highly nutritious fruit.   Native Americans recognised the importance of berry fruit in their diet and used raspberries to remove tartar from their teeth.   

Raspberry can relieve morning sickness and if the tea is regularly consumed an easier labour could be on the cards.  If a baby is on the way in your circle of friends and family, I would recommend Artemis Pregnancy Tea that contains raspberry leaf and other herbs good for pregnancy. Sandra Claire from Artemis learnt the secrets of the beneficial plants from a Catholic nun who looked after young pregnant women in the Swiss mountains.  In Switzerland she tells me every pregnant woman gets a free prescription of this herbal tea to build uterine strength.

The only problem with raspberries is that they don't keep as long as other berries.  How to Store Raspberries gives you some really good tips on how to make them last which could be helpful for those buying berries ahead of time for Christmas Day.
Berries collected from my sister Kerry's garden
set against one of her many nativity scenes around the cottage

For my readers in the southern hemisphere here's wishing you all a very merry berry Christmas.
And for those in the northern hemisphere, perhaps you can recall the flavour of summer berries through a jar of raspberry jam.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays wherever you may be.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Farewell Dinner to a Villa on River Road

Some of you will have experienced an emotional good-bye to a home that you have loved, that holds the memories of your children growing up and the pain of renovation.  Usually the move is made easier by the thought of another family taking over the house to create a new set of memories.  How much harder it is to have to leave knowing that a demolition squad will erase that house forever.

In Christchurch this is just what our dear friends Jan and Wal have had to face.  A month ago Peter and I spent a special weekend in celebration of a fine old lady sitting on the banks of the Avon on River Road.  It was to be her farewell weekend.

Jan is a wonderful cook who will mark any occasion with a special meal.  Wal is the modern day hunter and gatherer, sourcing the fish, meats, vegetables and wine. On this occasion the gathering included a whole duck and a whole Moki.  What a wonderful team they are.   How many couples do you know that catered their own wedding?  Well Jan and Wal did.

A long table was set up in a spacious elegant room that reminds us of the style and craftmanship that went into quality villas after the turn of last century.  The most stunning feature is the ornate plaster ceiling with sunflowers.

Outside the real flowers on show were Sweet Peas. While Jan has given up gardening around the River Road property, the sweet peas were the one flower she grew and picked. I don't know of anyone who doesn't love these dainty, sweet perfumed pea flowers that herald the approach of summer.

While out smelling the sweet peas, another delicious smell took my attention.  Wal was smoking the fish that was to be the entree for our special dinner.  

As Wal is a keen fisherman, he finds it worthwhile to invest in a good stainless steel smoker.  Trout and salmon are the usual guests in the smoker but today he went to his favourite fish monger and purchased a whole Moki.

The architect of the meal is Jan who could have had a career in a commercial kitchen. She's not just a good cook, she's strategic and organised. Jan plans a menu that can be prepared ahead of time.  When the guests arrive she has everything ready resulting in minimal time away from guests.   And I don't know how she does it, but she manages to have a cleared bench at the time of serving a meal.

Wal's smoked fish was presented on a large platter with water biscuits as the entree - simple and delicious.

Smoked Moki - simple and delicious!
The main course also appeared to be a simple dish ... but looks are deceptive.

Jan took four evenings after work to produce a dish called Cassoulet featuring a whole duck cooked three ways, beans, lamb and sausage.

Mark Bittman who writes for the New York Times describes this dish beautifully and gives you the recipe if you want to give it go. How to Conquer the Cassoulet   It involves boning the duck to remove the breasts, making a stock out of the carcass and keeping the duck fat to produce a Duck Confit.
Next you cook the lamb and beans, followed by the sausage and seared duck breasts Whole Duck Cassoulet.

Dinner guest Matt is giving the Cassoulet the smell test - verdict...
smells fantastic!

The final touch requires heating up cassoulet, covering with breadcrumbs and parsley, then bake in the oven until golden brown.

Jan served the cassoulet with a big pile of fresh asparagus and a crusty bread baton from the superb bakery on Victoria Street called Vics.
Jan used baby green lima beans in the cassoulet.

I wanted to taste the sauce first so I dipped the bread into the juice and what a rich flavour I was rewarded with.

Cassoulet comes from France. It's humble origin as a traditional peasant bean stew has been claimed by different cities in the south west.  While other traditional dishes have disappeared, Cassoulet has an almost iconic status in France.   Each region, city or home has it's own particular recipe ... but they all contain beans, meat and usually a duck confit.  Chefs debate the importance of keeping to the traditional Cassoulet versus making a version that better suits the current time, i.e. lighter, and less time consuming.

Carcassonne chef Jean-Claude Rodriguez writes "Cassoulet lives on, because it requires patience, respect, and it requires a lot of love.”

Yes all of us around that table that night knew just how well loved we were ...but wait there was more.  A large wooden board made from the top of a wine barrel was brought to the table carrying dessert.

Jackie's Rustic Semolina Lemon and Rosemary cake in the foreground.

Jan has an appreciation of good cakes and is an excellent cake maker.  She is famous in our household for her Simnel Cake (a dark fruitcake with marsipan running through the centre like a rich vein of gold.)

On this occasion she decided to outsource the dessert and asked Jackie who was well qualified for the task. Jackie used to own and bake for her local cafe until the earthquakes destroyed their building and business.

A great way of presenting crackers or biscuits on a platter - a layer of kitchen
paper and brown paper tied up with twine.
The presentation was as lovely as the selection of edibles.   There were two cakes with home made Mascarpone, three cheeses with walnut oatcakes and a bowl of dried figs marinated in orange syrup.

Rustic Semolina Lemon and Rosemary Cake

The  lemon cake was truly delicious - lemony with a great texture.  Both Jan and I thought it worthwhile to hunt out the recipe.   It's Italian in origin and they sometimes slice it and have with coffee for breakfast.    
This cake would also be delicious with lemon curd 

My first attempt at making this cake was a bit of a disaster due to a combination of my oven "Mr Ferocious" and a limited time frame.  So, second time round, I thought I would halve the recipe and put it into a tin that would cook the centre before it burns on the outside.  I have given the ingredients for the loaf sized cake, but if you want to make an impressive small but tall cake like the one Jackie created in the picture above, just double the mix below.

1/2 cup Semolina
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (I used polenta)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
grated zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp finely chopped Rosemary
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon extract (I used 1tsp Lemoncello liqueur but I think the lemon extract would make it more lemony like Jackie's cake)
1/2 cup thick Greek yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Line and grease a large loaf tin.
Put the three flours together with baking powder, soda and salt in one bowl.

In a mixer or bowl mix together the sugar lemon zest and rosemary.

Add the oil to the sugar and mix on medium speed.
 Add the eggs one at a time, then the extract or lemon liquor and lemon juice, and beat until well mixed.

With a metal spoon, fold in half the flour mixture into the eggs, then half the yogurt until mixed.

Then add the rest of the flour mixture and yogurt and mix just until blended.

Pour the batter into the loaf tin, and spread evenly with the back of a spoon, then bake for about 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
 Cool the cake for 10 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the pan and turn it over onto a plate.
 Cool to room temperature before slicing.

 I presented the cake as a dessert with marinated strawberries, lemon curd and mascarpone with Lemoncello liqueur.

The heart of the city of Christchurch has been flattened but there are early signs of the city's revival.  It's heartening to see some of the cleared land that once housed businesses being given over to wildflower plantings.  This is organised by Greening the Rubble Trust - a group a of people wanting to create a better place for the people of Christchurch now. 

In other regions of New Zealand we can all too easily forget the plight of the people of Christchurch.  A visit to that city is a big reminder and you leave feeling an admiration for the spirit and courage of it's people.

Signs of a community working together with a
Community garden on Fitzgerald Avenue
Our weekend's final stop was a visit to Pomeroys Historic Brewery on Kilmore Street for a taste of boutique brewery beers from the south.  Pomeroys has managed to stay operating after the earthquakes and it's an important meeting place for locals.  

Peter giving a toast to Wal (centre) and Jan( right).

Jan and Wal have now moved into their new home across the river where land is stable.  It's not as grand as the well loved villa on River Road but it has what both of them want - a safe and cosy home in a welcoming local community.

One thing I know for sure is that no matter where Jan and Wal are living we will be treated to great  company, good craic and wonderful new food experiences around their dining table. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

A Broad Bean Makeover

Our friend Ken proudly showed me a bean seedling in a pot.  Now Ken is a great vegie grower and would not normally be showing me one bean seedling in a pot, but this bean was special.  It has been eagerly watched over and nurtured by his nearly three year old grandson, Hunter. Each time Hunter comes to visit his "Ranads" he eagerly checks how his bean is growing.

Hunter from Christchurch - a gardener in the making beside Ken's
crop of broad beans. Photograph: Ken Rouse
In late spring, asparagus is quickly followed by the arrival of broad beans.  If you are a home gardener the odds are you will have planted the seed in autumn.  The seedlings pop up to encounter whatever winter throws at them, and then with the warmth of spring they race to grow eventually two times the height of young Hunter.

You can plant broad bean seeds in early spring too.  According to European folklore you will have good luck if you plant your broad beans on Good Friday. This translates to early September in New Zealand for a spring sowing or Good Friday for an autumn sowing.

I began growing broad beans because they are an easy bean to grow, especially in the cooler south. Peter was not at all enthusiastic about the beans. His childhood memories of them, like so many others, were of an unappetizing,  greeny-grey bean with a bitter coat that was probably boiled for a good ten minutes. It was time to give this bean's culinary 'bad rap' a makeover.
The orange or red nasturtium is more than a colourful companion
to the beans in the garden, the flower's peppery flavour goes well
with the beans in a salad.

I found the solution, thanks to cook and gardener Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame, who introduced me to ways of preparing broad beans that look luscious and taste even better.  And the true test of my success is that Peter now loves broad beans.

Fresh broad beans are bountiful at this time of the year but if you are not growing them they can be hard to find. You probably will have the best luck at a farmer's market.

The secret to avoiding the bitter dry beans of childhood is to pick them young. You can even start harvesting them when they have a girth the size of a pencil.  They can be used simply by cutting pods on an angle and throwing into a stir-fry.  

Once the plants reach the flowering stage, I use the growing tips to add a peppery touch to a salad (a little like rocket in that respect) or these too can be tossed into a leafy stir-fry.

At our community garden a young boy was intrigued with the pods with their fluffy white lining and asked if he could try a bean.  He came back for more and so introduced me to eating them raw - funny I hadn't eaten them raw before.  I have since discovered that in a coastal region of Northern Italy, young broad beans are enjoyed raw as the first of the spring garden produce.

When picking broad beans start at the bottom of the plant
and work up the stem, flick up and snap off the beans. 

Be warned, it does take quite a few bean pods to get enough beans for a meal.   Peter collected a bucket full of beans from our community garden.  And from the bucket the beans minus their pods reduced to this...
As the bean grows in size they tend to grow a thick green-grey coat.  
The much maligned broad bean of our childhood is experiencing a resurgence in popularity and this could be due to the process of skinning the bean. Blogger Nancy Harmon Jenkins  thinks this trend was created in the professional kitchens of France and is not at all necessary.  I will let you decide.

To present a glossy green bean for use in a salad or for hummus I do recommend skinning.  

First of all boil the shelled beans for 3 - 5 minutes depending on size.  As the beans are young at this time of the year they really only 1-2 minutes  but as they grow larger and older they will need the longer time.  To make them cool enough to handle, tip the beans into a sieve and run the cooked beans under a cold tap.

To skin nip the skin at the top of the bean and gently squeeze from the bottom to allow the bean flesh pop out.

In Arabic they are called Foul (pronounced "fool") - for those of you who think broad beans are foul here are three ways to use broad beans that may just change your mind.

Beans and bacon on toast

This is my favourite broad bean dish and it's truly easy and quick. Beans and bacon are a match made in heaven.  The best way to have this dish is to pick the beans and make immediately.  If the beans are young there is no need to do the skinning.   Some broad bean varieties now have a green skin when cooked which is a lot more appetizing than the khaki grey. I usually just skin the larger grey coloured beans.
As I only had a few leftover skinned beans on this occasion I added some
asparagus spears. Beans and asparagus work well together.
First of all fry a little chopped bacon in a heavy based pan - one slice per person - once it starts to colour then add finely chopped garlic, followed by broad beans that have been pre-cooked and skinned  (if required).  Add a squeeze of lemon juice, and season with pepper. 

Both broad beans and  asparagus enjoy the company of mint. So add finely chopped mint at the end of cooking (not too much as mint is a strong flavouring - one set of top leaves in a sprig would do - about 1 tsp finely chopped). 

Toast a good bread and cover with the beans and bacon.  Before serving I drizzle some really good oil - either extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil.  

Broad bean hummus
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's hummus is an ideal use for older beans that are getting floury.  For me it's one of the first dishes I make with the new season's beans because its a way of sharing the fresh harvest with a number of people.   It's a gob smacking green dip that certainly attracts attention and the texture is velvety.

1 to 1 1/2 cups of shelled beans (depends on how many you have on hand)
1/2 to 1 garlic clove (depends on the size and strength of the garlic)
Crush the garlic with a little salt
A generous squeeze of lemon juice (again the quantity will depend on the lemon - add to taste)
About 3 Tbsp of good quality oil like rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
(optional) - a sprig of mint finely cut, or a splash of green tabasco sauce or addition of seeded green chilli.

Put the beans, garlic and oil first into a food processor and whizz to a puree. Now add the lemon juice and taste, add more lemon juice if needed, and salt and pepper to taste.

It's important to taste along the way because there are ingredient variations.  The flavour and consistency will depend on the age of the beans and the lemon and garlic can be of varying strengths.  You could add a little green tabasco sauce or chilli if you want to add some heat.   I also like to make it quite garlicky.

A hummus you would think would have tahini included. I think Hugh has excluded it in this recipe to retain the subtle flavour of the beans.  I am keen to experiment and the next time I have only a few beans,  I might opt to make a bean flavoured hummus by simply adding some chickpeas and a small spoon of tahini.

Squished broad beans with preserved lemon and flatbreads

This is a great dish to accompany toasted flat breads and fresh salad ingredients like tomato, lettuce and cucumber yoghurt.  Together they make a simple and quick summer evening meal or lunch.

Mash the beans a little with a potato masher.  They would actually mash a little easier if they still have their skins on.  To the squished beans add a quarter of a preserved lemon , scrape away the flesh and pith of the lemon rind and finely dice.  Alternatively, use a squeeze of lemon juice + zest.  Then add seasoning of pepper (the lemon will add all the salt you will need) and a slurp of good olive oil.

Roti, flatbread or mountain bread are all delicious when cooked with a little oil.  Consider using these  to bring some leftovers to life.  We have this at least once a week and is very useful if you have to get some food on the table quickly. Three year old Beau loves loading up his flatbread triangles.

To cook the flat breads first you need a heavy based pan - caste iron is the best.

I begin by giving it a spray of oil, pop in a flat bread, drizzle oil on top and spread quickly with a brush.  It only takes about 20-30 seconds to cook on one side, flip and cook the underside.

When you flip the bread it will bubble up transforming it from what looks like a piece of cardboard into  a delicous lively looking flat bread.

I thought this bread looked like the surface of the moon.
Cook both sides well and then stack on a plate in a warm oven until ready to serve. 

You can make them into a roll or cut into pieces and create your own combination of topping.

  • Both the fresh or dried broad beans are also well known around the world as Fava Beans
  • To dry, simply leave the beans in their pods to dry and then harvest   
  • Broad beans are high in protein - almost as high as soya beans
  • In Italy some people carry a dried fava bean in their pocket believing that they will never be without the essentials in life.  This tradition came out of hardship. In Sicily when the crops failed, fava beans kept them from starvation.

What other bean can you eat every part of from the growing tips to the dried seeds?  Also called Faba bean, I am now convinced that this most useful bean is a fab vegetable that doesn't need a makeover...they just need less time in the pot and some good companions like mint, lemon, garlic and olive oil.

If you grow the beans inside, remember to harden them off slowly before planting in the soil -
 this may mean taking them in at night and putting them outside in a place that has shade.
Photograph from "Growing Vegetables" The Guardian.com
Hunter has been given a great gift by Ken - a curiousity about the natural world.  Ken in return has been reminded of the magic of gardening through the eyes of his grandson.  Go to it and introduce a child to growing beans!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Sanctuary Garden and a Shared Lunch

I had a dream when I left Dunedin for Auckland 9 months ago that I could be part of an urban community garden.  We have finally managed to achieve my dream.  We now have a plot with the Sanctuary Community Organic Garden at UNITEC.  This community garden is a haven for city dwellers who want to be a little more self sufficient and grow their own food.

Peter titled this photo "Somebody's Darling" .  This lettuce was
growing in someones plot - looks too good to eat! 
This tiny bit of self sufficiency gives me a good feeling, especially leaving behind a large food garden in Dunedin to living with one raised bed and herbs in pots in Ponsonby.  We have nick named the community garden as "The Good Life Gardens" re-living the late 1970's comedy "The Good Life".  Peter is not as fanatical as Tom in the TV series, but loves the physical work involved in gardening. For me, it is a chance to share ideas and learn from local gardeners about what to plant and when ... and how to deal with a host of pests we just don't have down south.

Our Community Garden is nestled in the 55 hectare grounds of UNITEC Institute of Technology,
Mt Albert, where it was originally set up as a Horticultural Organic Teaching Garden
The gardeners tell us the volcanic soil here in Mt Albert is some of the best in New Zealand (certainly the free loam is a change from the clay in Dunedin). The soil has also benefited from being an organic garden for over 15 years.
Left: our plot chest high with lupins planted thankfully by the previous plot holders
Centre: Peter cut down all the weeds and lupins in true Permaculture style;
Right: a week later the weeds have all died down and I planted a row of carrots, sheltering
them under nasturtium leaves.

We have leased a plot about 4 x 4 metres amid the other family plots and the large communal beds of garlic, potatoes, silver beet and broad beans, plus beds of perennial herbs.
A very healthy potato patch.
 The Blues Rugby Development Squad trains in the UNITEC grounds.  They recently volunteered to earth up
all our potatoes...  and this should ensure we get a bumper crop. 

One of the founding members of the Sanctuary Trust was a Permaculturalist who planted up a food forest around the edge of the garden.  Beyond that is a forest reserve so it's a perfectly sheltered site.

Permaculture is a philosophy as much as a method of gardening.  It was first introduced to the world by Australian Bill Mollison who studied forest ecology and translated it into a system of growing food and crops in a sustainable way. If you want to know more take a look at A Beginners Guide to Permaculture Gardening, a video made in North London.
Thankfully there are plenty of nasturtium hiding in the
food forest and around the edges of the garden plots
There are small gardens in and around the plots that are planted in flowers to attract beneficial insects.

Just as bees are essential for the success of the gardens, so too are Sarah, Bev and Trevor who organise us all.  There are young and old gardeners, some experienced and others garden rookies.

Being part of the community means promising a couple of hours a month to work on communal spaces.

Grandson Beau loves coming to the gardens, he is
watering flower seedlings planted out on community work day.
After our work, we retire to the large garden shed for a shared lunch around a large a central table.  This is also an opportunity to chat and get to know our fellow gardeners.  As a newbie to the group I felt a little nervous as what I should bring to our first shared lunch. 

 I decided to make Baba Ghanoush and flat bread as this is one of the easiest and nicest ways of eating the gorgeous aubergine.  Plus, as a dip it can go a long way.  Aubergines are abundant and  reasonably priced at this time of year.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush looks a lot more appetising with some freshly
chopped parsley, a slurp of olive oil and a few nasturtiums to bring colour to the dish.
Try popping some Baba Ghanoush into the flower and munch  
You can prepare the aubergine two different ways.  I like to prepare them in halves.  Sprinkle with rock salt, sit for 10 minutes, turn over and knock off salt and place face down on a tray (ideally lined with baking paper).

Cook in a oven at around 170-180C for about 30 minutes, until they begin to wrinkle and 
are soft when you push down with your finger.

In December 2012 I wrote a posting on Aubergine titled
Aubergine/Eggplant-King of Vegetables . Take a look if you want other
recipe ideas for this versatile and healthy vegetable.

I was reminded of a simple and quick way to cook the aubergine for a baba ghanoush by my friend Jan this weekend.  Jan pricked their skins and gave each aubergine a spray with oil before placing them on the hotplate of her compact barbecue, shutting the lid to keep the heat in.

She turned them two or three times and after about 10 minutes took them out and placed them into a brown paper bag until cool.  You can also cook them whole like this in an oven but it will take longer than on a barbecue plate.

The end result whatever way you cook the flesh must be a soft flesh that can easily mash.

I found if soft enough you can mash with a fork. This time I used my latest German made
 kitchen gadget.  It's a whisk that you can push down to make it whirl around
- great for eggs and worked well on the aubergine.

The flesh looks a little like mashed ripe banana (and not particularly appetising yet.)  Next you add 2 Tbsp of Tahini (sesame seed paste). You can replace the tahini with peanut butter or one of Ceres Organics other nut spreads. 

I have discovered that Ceres produces a number of butters made from nuts.
The one in this picture is called ABC - Almond, Brazil and Cashew.
The first time I made baba ghanoush I found the sticky tahini was difficult to disperse through the aubergine, so next time I allowed it to warm a little on the bench and added the juice of half a lemon to make it more liquid.   Finely cut up a clove of garlic and squash with some salt to make the garlic almost liquid and add to the lemon and tahini.  This mix should now easily mix and disperse amongst the mashed aubergine flesh.   Alternatively you can just put the garlic through a garlic crusher.   Taste if it needs extra salt, pepper, garlic, or something else...

If you want it more creamy you could add in some thick yoghurt.

If you want more of lemon zing, you could add more lemon juice and even a preserved lemon quarter, scraped and finely chopped.

If you want more middle eastern heat then add some harissa paste.

I used chopped up parsley but coriander with a little mint is also a great option. 

It's truly simple to make, but remember to taste as you go.  Always add a little of any added flavour at a time.  You don't want to overpower your dip with too many flavours.   

Aubergine is the perfect carrier of flavours, so why not give it a go. Experiment to find your own take on Baba Ghanoush.  My version was a huge hit at the shared lunch.

As the weather warms baba ghanoush can be part of a lovely lunch or light dinner if you add salad vegetables and toasted flatbreads.   Tomatoes go particularly well with baba ghanoush.  

You may be able to just see the line of the carrots I planted (far left)
Our patch has lots of calendulas seeding and one of the gardeners
gave us some lettuce seedlings which are progressing well (right)
Back in our patch everything is shooting up - weeds as quickly as the seeds we have
planted.  We have had some failures but I have a strike of carrots!  We are going to try to keep
our patch in true permaculture style, by pulling the weeds and laying them down to eventually become part of the soil.  We hope this will also help to keep the moisture in as we only visit the gardens once or twice a week. We do take out the invasive weeds.  They are put into the community large plastic tanks with water to rot down and to be returned to the land as a tea.
Beau loves to help and here Poppa Pete is teaching
him how to gently water the seedlings in the greenhouse
There are not many community gardens that also have a large greenhouse in which to raise seeds.
I am doing an experiment to see which of my basil seedlings do best, the ones at home or those at the gardens.  The basil at the "Good Life" gardens will have a good start in the greenhouse.