Monday, 29 August 2011

Al fresco

As the days stretch and the sunshine begins to take away the chill we have resumed our al Fresco life.

When we moved to this house a few years ago we replaced the front fence so we could be sure that the littl'uns were safely away from the road.

I made a point of making sure it was low enough that we could see out and also so that others could see in.  And of course I had to paint the gate RED!

Our front yard is quite spacious and I just could not bear the thought of losing all that outside space by not having it safe for the little ones......and then there are the dogs!

The first year we collected a cane setting from someone else's hard rubbish pile and I zhoozed it up with a paint job and some cushions that I covered in fabric from Ikea.  We literally loved it to bits until it went out in our hard rubbish pile all in bits.

This year I picked up a fab old table and chairs that I will paint Red....because it is necessary for me to have Red.  It is still in the colour that I found it but it works a treat!  We are loving it alot and will love this one till it too gets loved to bits like the last......

We live in a neighbourhood that is changing from being one of relatively elderly to the new young families.

I love to be able to see the young families wander by, parents pushing prams or chasing wayward newly able bike riders before they stray onto the road.

I love the trail of people walking their dogs.

I love to see the familiar older neighbourhood people who walk with incredible regularity and commitment.

Some of those at first seemed to make a point of not looking in at us in our yard.  But slowly over time they have started to say hello.  Started to look.  Sometimes even stopping to talk.  They smile at the lovely games my little ones are up to.

Little kids are great at stealing away that protective barrier that adults have that stops us starting a conversation with a stranger.  They just start to talk & continue to talk and talk and talk. 

So since we have moved here we have spent a huge mount of time in the front yard and have slowly learnt the names of many of the people who walk by.  Some of them just smile and don't speak..and that is just fine.  In fact that is fabulous.  The joy felt by the gift of a smile from a stranger can sometimes be just the medicine we need.

We have MANY comments about how lovely it is to see us in the front yard enjoying life.

Have you noticed how rarely you see people in their houses in suburban cities these days?  Most of us drive in the driveway and go inside. If we go outside it is the backyard where we go because it is private...away from others.

But I love people. People are interesting, exciting, full of stories and fabulous tales, sometimes so surprising and wonderful.  Most people have something to tell us that we can learn from or about.....the key is that we don't give people the time or the opportunity.

Our front yard is all about trying to reconnect with people.  I am all for it. People are great and I want to be able to enjoy them as much as I can.

On the weekends we try and have sit down lunch as well as dinner- any opportunity for us all to spend time together at the table I am ALL FOR IT!!! This is where magic happens.  Conversations that we don't otherwise give ourselves time for.

And now that the sun has come out again we are invariably out the front.  For breakfast and for lunch and will be dinner too. Al Fresco.......YES!

Yesterday we had extras at our table...friends of the children.  I loved it! These are times that i am happiest.

The kids set the table.

We sat there long after the meal was eaten....chatting, sharing, laughing.

It really doesn't get much better than that.

These are one of my kids all time fave things to eat.  I love meals like this as everyone can just add what they want and omit what they don't.  
We served Lebanese flat bread, Hommos, Tsatziki & Black Quinoa Tabbouleh.
This kind of eating is always a winner with kids who are fussier than others or friends who aren't as adventurous as mine and don't have to feel strange as they can keep ti as simple as they like.  Although our guest yesterday LOVED everything!   
This meal uses heaps of fresh mint which is just going nuts in our garden at the moment so I am happy to be using lots of it!
There are a few parts to the recipe so I will do it in parts.



  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1/2 red (spanish) onion, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • S & P
  • EVOO
Add all ingredients and amalgamate well.

Put a little olive oil in a non stick pan and heat to medium.

Grab a handful of mince and roll into a sausage like shape.  Add to pan.  Be sure to brown all sides and cook through.

Set aside on a plate.

This is a quick method using Organic canned chick peas.  You can of course soak & use dried ones.

  • 1 can organic chick peas (drain but reserve the liquid- for this amount I usually use about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon Tahini (ground sesame paste)
  • the juice of one lemon (you could grate the rind and put it in the kofta mix if you like- YUM!)
  • salt
  • EVOO (about 1/4cup)
Add all ingredients in a food processor and blitz.   Add more of the reserved chickpea juice to help soften.
Slowly drizzle EVOO into until it is the desired consistency.  Check seasoning.
Blitz unitl the mix is nice and smooth.  A hand blender works well for this too.


I have already written the recipe for TSATZIKI.
The recipe is HERE.

Tabbouleh ordinarily uses cracked Burghul wheat but recently I have been using Quinoa as a substitute. My kids seem to really like it and I think it works really well.  It is quite quick to prepare too.

  • 1 cup black Quinoa (boil according to instructions on packet, drain and set aside)
  • 6 tomatoes, diced finely.
  • 3 small lebanese cucumbers, diced finely
  • 1 bunch of mint, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch italian parsley, chopped finely
  • 4-5 spring onion, chopped finely (I didn't have any spring onion yesterday so I used the other half of the red onion from the kofta mix)
  • lemon juice
  • EVOO
  • S & P
Make a vinaigrette using EVOO & Lemon juice.

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Check seasoning.

Now serve at everything at the table and wrap to your hearts content!
We sure did.......

We have outdoor speakers out the front so we can still listen to our favourite tunes...
Here's what was was on...could it be more appropriate??
The string players at my place having been playing this on the uke. it sounds pretty good I have to say!


  1. I hate those wasted front yards! If I happen to wander on by I will most certainly take a peek over the fence! Best seats are always at the front!

  2. HOW have I missed not one, but TWO posts? My busy weekend to blame methinks!

    Oh, I can just imagine what a treat it must be for those lucky neigbours of yours who get to pass by such a lively happening place!I would stop and chat, of course I would. Oh how I wish....

  3. Why can't you be my neighbour?! Two years of walking by our two closest neigbours (The Impeccables--a retired couple & Our Dairy Farmers--a young couple w/a daughter now) in all weather, starting with a nod, then graduating to the simple wave, before we were granted the spoken word, Bonjour. It is and always will be the HARDEST thing for me about living in France, as I am a talk to my neighbour, invite you over, sit around the table and enjoy food & chat for hours kind of girl....why this is where destiny brought us? Still working that one out. Thanks for giving me a virtual window in which to wistfully stare....and I can't wait to some day walk up to that cheery red door and say HELLOOOOO!! xoxo L

  4. Kofta at our house tomorrow night. I may just have a whole GG week with all the gorgeous recipes I have rediscovered this afternoon xx

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