Mexican Beef, Bean and Eggplant Casserole

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“Casseroles are one-pot-wonders!” ~ Carla Hall


I love a good casserole, and this one will feed a crowd! This tasty casserole is a filling meal, especially with a side of vegetables or salad. It is gluten-free and low carb too for people who are following those ways of eating.

Any left-overs are terrific served with corn chips, and we’ve even used them in tacos and burritos, or as toasted sandwich fillings.


500g ground beef, two medium onions, 6 cloves of garlic, 1 red capsicum (bell pepper), 1 teaspoon Mexican Chilli powder (or to taste), 3 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 beef stock cube, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon dark chocolate (optional but good! – see this recipe for why), 3 large eggplants (aubergines). salt, pepper, olive oil, grated cheese (minimum of one cup)

Vegetarian or vegan? Substitute 2 cans of brown lentils for the beef mince, and use a vegan cheese.




Slice the eggplant into rounds, about 1cm thick. Sprinkle lightly with salt and leave for an hour for them to sweat. Pat down with a clean dish towel to remove the moisture. This will remove any bitterness. If you are using small eggplant you can omit this step.

NB: While the eggplant is sitting, make your mince sauce.

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Lightly brush or spray the eggplant slices with oil, and then grill or pan fry until browned on each side.

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Set aside. Try not to eat too many. 🙂

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Mince Recipe

Add a tablespoon of oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add in your chopped onions and cook until softened but not coloured. Then add the beef mince and brown well.

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Now add in the spices and garlic, stir well and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Then add the kidney beans, Capsicum, tomato and tomato paste. Stir well.

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Simmer for twenty minutes and then add the dark chocolate, if using. Adjust seasoning to your taste. Set mince aside to cool slightly.

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Assemble the Casserole

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Grease a 20cm x 30 cm deep casserole or lasagne tray or use your own favourite dish. You could also make two smaller casseroles if you prefer!

Place a layer of eggplant along the bottom of the casserole and then cover with a layer of mince.

Place a second layer of eggplant and then more mince.


Top the casserole with the final eggplant slices and then spread grated cheese over the top.

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Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through and top nicely browned.

Serve with salad, vegetables, rice, bread or corn chips.

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Easy Baked Eggs Recipe

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“A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.”
~ Pat Conroy


Sometimes I need a warm, easy meal that takes just  a minute or two to throw together, but that is more substantial than toast. If I’m writing, and don’t want to leave what I am doing for too long, or at the end of a long working day when I want a tasty but effortless meal, baked eggs is a favourite go-to.

Baked eggs are remarkably simple, and can be thrown together with other ingredients in endless combination. Just a minute to assemble, some oven time, and no major clean up. I will often make one to eat straight away, and another to eat cold.


The basic ingredients you will need per person are an egg, some butter, a little cream and cheese, some vegetables and if wanted, a little ham, cold meat or smoked salmon.

Good vegetable choices are tomato, capsicum (bell pepper), corn, spinach, kale, mushrooms, or diced cold leftover vegetables from a previous meal (go crazy!).

This is the perfect meal for anyone who is time poor or domestically challenged. It can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If you don’t have individual ramekins you could use a cup, or select a larger shallow bowl or tray and make a couple of servings in the one dish.


Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit) and prepare a ramekin for each person by greasing lightly with a little butter.

Slice enough vegetables to nearly fill the ramekin. Today I’ve used golden tomatoes, mushrooms, red capsicum and a little smoked salmon, all roughly chopped into smaller pieces.

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Layer the vegetables and salmon (or whatever else you are using) with a sprinkle or two of cheese and a grind or two of salt and pepper. Fill to nearly the top of the ramekin.

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Crack an egg over the top, and then pour over a tablespoon or two of cream, and a final sprinkle of cheese. Add herbs or seasoning if wanted.

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Bake for twenty minutes for a soft-yolked egg. Perfect for dunking toast. That’s the soft yolk, right in the centre of the pic, under the cheese! Mmmmm….

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Break yolk and cook for thirty minutes if you prefer your baked egg to more closely resemble a quiche. ( A good option if working and not wanting to drip egg on keyboard.)

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Serve on its own or with toast or a quick salad. So yummy and good!

I have even served these with a salad and good bread,  a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream on top, a sprinkling of herbs and given them to guests as a pretend-fancy meal when I was too tired to do proper cooking. 🙂

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Osso Buco Recipe with Beetroot and Rosemary

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“The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.”

~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Slow-cooked real food. Is there anything more nourishing, more heart-warming and soul comforting?

This recipe came about by happy accident, as I was debating what remnant vegetables in the bottom of my crisper drawer would be relegated to the soup pot or the worm farm. A fist-sized beetroot was begging to be used up.

The seasons are doing their slow slide from summer to autumn here at the farm. The days are still warm but there’s a chill in the air come late afternoon, and I’m airing the blankets ready to put on the beds now that the nights are cool again.

Osso Buco is a cut of meat ; traditionally cross-cut veal shanks that expose the marrow bone. The meat is best cooked slowly, and the bone marrow and cartilage from the osso buco will create a velvety sauce with all the benefits of bone broth.

I’ve diverged from my traditional osso buco with a few simple ingredients that bring an earthy rich sweetness to this humble but classic dish. The beetroot really makes this recipe.

Enjoy! 🙂


6 pieces of osso buco, 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee, 2 stalks of celery, 2 large carrots, 1 large beetroot, 1 large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of fresh tomato (or one can of diced tomatoes), 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 cups of good quality chicken or veal stock, 1 tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch), 1/2 to 3/4 cup of white wine (or use stock instead), 2 tablespoons of Davidsons Plum jam or your favourite ‘tart-sweet’ jam such as rosella, cranberry or cherry, salt and pepper. (The jam is optional but it really does give this dish a little something extra!)

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Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). If you’re using a slow cooker, put this on to warm up.

Place a tablespoon of oil into a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a medium heat. Lightly pan fry the meat in batches until brown. Then place the meat into a large baking dish. Don’t wipe the fat out of the frying pan. You’ll be needing it again in a minute.

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Now chop all of your vegetables and the parsley. Top and tail the beetroot and then peel before cutting. Crush or finely chop your garlic. Keep the tomatoes aside for later.

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Add the chopped vegetables into the frying pan, and stir over moderate heat for a few minutes until the vegetables soften and brown slightly. The beetroot will stain things pink, but that’s okay.

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Now add your chopped tomatoes and the rosemary. Stir for another few minutes over medium heat and then pour in the wine. Keep stirring every so often. Let the tomatoes soften slightly (if using fresh ones).

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Finally, take some of the stock and mix in the cornflour until it makes a smooth milky paste. Tip into the pan to thicken your mixture and then add in the tomato paste, stock, and jam. Give this all a good grind of black pepper and a little salt to taste. It should taste GOOD!

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Carefully tip the beetroot mixture over the meat, making sure that everything is well covered.

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Cover with a lid, or place some baking paper on top, followed by a ‘lid’ of aluminium foil tucked in around the sides. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 150 degrees celcius if fanforced (300 degrees fahrenheit) or 160 degrees celcius (320 degrees fahrenheit) if not. Cook for a further 2 hours and thirty minutes.

If using a slow cooker, cook for 3 to 5 hours, testing after 3. The meat should fall easily off the bone and be soft and silky.

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Serve on its own, or on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with some fresh seasonal vegetables. Make sure to ladle plenty of the gravy over the meat. That’s the best bit!

As you can see from the picture below I served ours with mashed Nicola potatoes and some pan-fried fresh green beans and sweet cherry tomatoes with a little garlic and olive oil to dress them.

And it was YUM!!! 🙂

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Tasty Chorizo Risotto Recipe

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“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness.” 
― Eli Brown, Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Risotto is one of my favourite comfort foods. All that lovely flavour in a one-bowl meal! Chorizo sausage is usually spiced with garlic, wine, herbs, dried red peppers or smoked paprika and sometimes chilli. It gives a heartiness to this humble rice dish, and the flavours are earthy and spicy without being too hot. The recipe can be made for a week-night family dinner, but it’s fancy enough to serve when friends come to visit. It also reheats well if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

The secret to a good risotto is to warm your stock, add it to your rice ladle by ladle full, and to give it a regular and thorough stir as it is cooking. It’s also worth the trouble to use some arborio rice (readily available in supermarkets and delicatessens). Arborio rice will soak up all that liquid without becoming mushy.

If you don’t want to use wine in this recipe, simply substitute another cup of stock. Cooking time is about 20 minutes for the risotto, plus however long it takes to pre-cook your sausages – mine took ten minutes.

Like things hot? Add a good dash of Tabasco sauce or some fresh chilli. I haven’t listed these as ingredients. We serve Tabasco and chilli on the side so that those who don’t enjoy things spicy can eat their risotto without calling the Fire Brigade to attend to their burning mouth. 🙂

This recipe will serve four. With careful sausage selection (ask your butcher or read sausage ingredients carefully) it is a lovely gluten-free meal!


250 grams arborio rice, one large onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 6 nice fat fresh chorizo sausages – about 500 grams (or your choice of other good quality flavoursome sausages), one fresh cob of corn, one medium ripe red capsicum (bell pepper), 1  bunch of fresh coriander, zest of one lemon, 750ml (3 cups) of good quality chicken stock, 250ml of white wine, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves (optional), a heaped tablespoon of pine nuts, a heaped tablespoon of slivered almonds, some grated or shaved parmesan.


Place a large heavy-bottomed frypan over medium heat and toast your pine nuts and almonds for a few minutes until browned. Stir often and watch them carefully as they will burn quickly once they reach a certain point. Remove from heat and empty onto a plate until later.

Return pan to heat.

Put a tablespoon of oil in a heavy bottomed pan and cook your sausages over medium heat until cooked through. Turn occasionally so that they brown on all sides.

While they are cooking prepare your other vegetables.

Remove the husk and silk from the ear of corn and use a sharp knife to remove kernels from cob. Chop the red capsicum into small pieces and shred your coriander and basil. Set half of the chopped coriander aside as a garnish when the meal is done.

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Chop your onion finely and chop or crush your garlic cloves.

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When sausages are cooked, remove them from the pan and let cool slightly. Then slice into rounds and set aside. Leave around a tablespoon of fat from the sausages in the pan, and pick out any burnt bits as they make the dish taste bitter. The fat will have coloured from the paprika and spices. Don’t panic. It’s supposed to look orange.

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Place your stock on low heat and bring to a slow simmer. Return the frypan to medium heat, add in a tablespoon of butter to the existing fat and the onion and garlic and saute gently for two or three minutes until softened and fragrant. Then add the rice and stir until completely coated in the butter and oil mixture. It will become glassy looking. This is good! Keep stirring for another minute or so.

Pour in the cup of white wine and stir until all wine has been absorbed.

Add the chopped chorizo, stir again and then add a ladle of stock, stirring until it has been absorbed by the rice. Keep slowly adding stock and stirring until the liquid is absorbed before you add more.

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When you have about one cup of stock left add the sweet corn, red capsicum, the basil and half of the coriander.

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Now add the rest of the stock bit by bit. Test your rice. If it’s still a bit chewy when all of the liquid has been added, use another slug of wine or a little more stock. The rice is done when it is still firm but also soft ( as opposed to mushy – it’s a lot like cooking pasta al dente so that there is still a little resistance when you bite into it).

Stir through the final tablespoon of butter and the fresh lemon zest.

To serve scatter the remaining coriander and the toasted nuts over the rice. The toasted nuts make a wonderful textural contrast to the softness of the rice. Offer with some parmesan to sprinkle on top as well. You could pair this with a green salad and crusty bread but it’s perfectly fine on its own.

This meal was completely devoured by hungry farm workers, so sadly no left-overs. Oh well.


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Tasty Asian Flavours Quinoa – Virtual Vegan Potluck 2013

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“Eating superfoods won’t turn you into a superhero, but it might help you look better in Lycra.” ~ Nicole Cody

Quinoa (pronounced keen- wah) is touted as one of the latest ‘superfoods’ and apparently all the cool and beautiful people have recently discovered it. As you well know, I’m not in the ‘cool and beautiful’ department but I have been eating quinoa for years, and it rocks!

It looks like a grain but quinoa’s actually a seed; gluten free, low in fat, high in complete protein, and chock full of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc.

My previous efforts for the Potluck have included Vegan Broccoli, Cashew and Lime Soup and Creamy Satay Hotpot.

Today’s quinoa recipe can be served warm as a side, or cold, as a salad. It’s a terrific dish for all your vegan and vegetarian friends, as well as a tasty addition to your average carnivore’s plate. It also doesn’t take much cooking skill, so it can be prepared by the least confident of cooks! 🙂


I cup of quinoa, 2 cups of water or vegetable stock, 1/2 large or 1 small red salad onion finely diced, 1/2 to 1 cup of broken walnut halves, 2 oranges peeled with seeds and membranes removed and chopped into small pieces, 2 scallions/green onions/shallots chopped, 1 small bunch of coriander/cilantro chopped, butter lettuce or similar to serve.

Quinoa white and ready to be cooked

Cooking the Quinoa:

Place quinoa and water or stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is fluffy and delicious.  Feel free to eat a spoonful or two as a taste test.

While the quinoa is cooking, cut up your herbs, onion and oranges, roughly chop or break your walnut halves and drink some water.  Water is good for you.  If it’s cold drink warm water. There, doesn’t that feel better?


1 teaspoon of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari or soy sauce, 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root (use this to taste!), 1 to 2 cloves of freshly crushed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder (optional but good).

Whisk all ingredients together until well blended, or place into a lidded jar and shake vigorously to combine.

To assemble:

If you want to eat this as a warm side, immediately toss all the other ingredients and the dressing through the quinoa and spoon onto your washed and drained lettuce leaves.

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For a cold side, let the quinoa cool and then add all other ingredients.

It looks very decorative served up in a pretty bowl lined with lettuce, or it can be plated up individually.  This dish makes for great left-overs too!

quinoa with asian flavours

To enjoy the rest of the Virtual Vegan Potluck recipes, click on the navigation buttons below.

Clicking go back takes you to Canned Time – a vegan delight, where Angela has created the most delectable Pear and Broccoli Sprout Salad with Balsamic Caramelized Sweet Potato Cubes.

Clicking go forward will land you at an unrefined vegan – hosted by the honestly amazing, undauntable, and most lovely Annie. Her blog is a thoughtful and beautifully assembled exploration of her journey into veganism, and that bumpy road we call life. Hugs and love to you, gorgeous Annie! Her offering today is Sweet Potato Fries with parsley, garlic and lemon zest.

Annie is the original inspiration behind these Virtual Vegan Potlucks, and I’m so glad that I stumbled upon her blog about the time when I first started my own. Thanks too to Somer and Jason for all their efforts with making this Potluck happen.

Thanks for visiting, and enjoy the rest of the Potluck! xx


And if you’d like to start from the beginning of this fabulous Potluck click here.

Cheesy Grilled Mushrooms Recipe

I love this recipe. You can make it in five minutes flat, and it works as a breakfast, lunch or dinner solution!  If you’re a vegan you can omit the cheese, or use a cheese substitute.

It’s also a great gluten and carb free alternative to pizza, but tastes every bit as good.


  • Flat field mushrooms (I’m using Portobello mushrooms!)
  • Tomato paste, tinned diced tomatoes, salsa or similar
  • Garlic or garlic powder
  • Capsicum (bell pepper) diced small
  • Fresh herbs well chopped – parsley, oregano, chives, thyme and basil all work well.  Use dried if you don’t have any fresh herbs to hand.
  • Grilling cheese, such as mozzarella, cheddar or gruyere
  • Rocket or other slightly bitter green leaves for your salad
  • Balsamic vinegar

I haven’t given specific quantities because you’ll need to vary this depending on how many people you’re feeding, how big your mushrooms are and the size of your appetite.  As you can see from the picture below, my mushrooms are enormous so one will be plenty per person.


Pull the stalk out of the mushrooms by giving it a gentle twist with your fingers.  Trim up any loose bits to give you a reasonable area to stuff. There is no need to peel the mushrooms, but wipe them over with a damp cloth or paper towel if they need it.

Now spoon some tomato paste/diced tomato/salsa etc into the bottom of the mushroom cup and spread it around with a spoon. Add in some of the capsicum (bell pepper) and a generous sprinkle of fresh herbs. Crush on some fresh garlic or sprinkle on some garlic powder, then season with salt and pepper. Make as many as you need.

Place the mushrooms under a hot grill, or on a tray in a good hot oven.  Allow to heat for a few minutes to warm the mushrooms and filling through.

Now place some sliced cheese onto your warmed-through mushrooms.

Return to grill or oven until the cheese is melted and nicely browned.

Serve with a handful of rocket or other seasonal greens, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. I find this is plenty as a meal on its own, but you can also use this as a tasty side dish. If bread is your thing, feel free to add some to your plate as well. Enjoy! ❤

Walnut and Basil Pesto & Pasta Recipe

My summer garden plantings are coming to an end, and I have more fresh basil than I know what to do with. The rabbits, possums and wallabies don’t like it much, and have left plenty for me – while they nibble my kale, parsley and coriander into oblivion!

These wallabies don’t like basil! Luckily I do…

This pesto recipe is such an easy dish to prepare.  You can have it on the table from scratch in twenty minutes!

Ingredients for the Pesto:

A few big handfuls (I mean BIG!) of fresh basil leaves, two or three large cloves of garlic, a small wedge of parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a cup or so of mixed nuts and seeds – I used walnuts, pine nuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sunflower seeds. (Adjust your quantities to suit the size of your blender/whizzer and the number of mouths you need to feed.) Note: You can really use whatever nuts and seeds you have to hand.  I just like walnuts!

Plus – some fresh vegetables, enough to feed your crowd, and some pasta of your choice (gluten-free if needed – or you can swap out pasta all together for a big plate of steamed or roasted vegetables instead) – once again choose enough to feed you, and I’d strongly advise cooking extra to ensure some left-overs as this makes a great cold salad the next day!

Parmesan cheese and garlic


Peel the garlic, and add to the food processor bowl with some parmesan cheese cut into small chunks.  Whizz until combined. (If you’re vegan, omit the cheese – if you’re a cheese nut, add a little extra…)

Then heat a heavy bottomed frying pan and dry-fry your nuts and seeds until toasty.  Transfer to a bowl so that they don’t keep cooking in the hot pan.

Toast nuts in frypan

Wash your basil and drain well.  Then get your pot of water on to boil for your pasta.

Wash basil and drain well

Add a handful of leaves to the food processor bowl and whizz.  Then add a handful of nuts and seeds and pulse again.  Now pour in a small slug of olive oil.  Pulse.

Keep doing this until you have used up all your leaves and seeds.  Taste and adjust flavourings, quantities and texture until you’re happy with it. The resulting pesto mixture should be glossy, bright green, and quite moist. Don’t be afraid to add a little more oil if it looks too dry. Season with salt and pepper or add a little chilli if you like it with a bit of heat (Mmmm!)  I quite often add a little fresh lemon zest too.

Feel free to dip in a spoon or a bit of bread and have a cook’s taste while you finish up dinner.

Whizzing it all together

Chop up your remaining vegetables, as these will go in your pasta! I like to use my frypan and a little oil and give them a quick stir-fry so they caramelise slightly to give the dish a richer flavour, but you could also dump them into your saucepan and let them get cosy with your pasta as it cooks.

Vegetables from the garden

Drain pasta. Put back into pot, add vegetables and pesto and stir to combine. Serve with some good bread, and a little extra cheese (if you like that sort of thing…) Enjoy ♥ xx