Upflavoured guacamole & jalapeños, ideas for blueberries & tomato paste by David Neville.


Who exactly invented jalapeño poppers? The answer is that no one knows, but the alcohol industry has given us a good guess. I’m unsure how the jalapeño popper even got its name; only the margarita knows for sure. That said, they are an icon of the TexMex food scene.


Italian poppers
Split 8 jalapeños lengthways and remove seeds. Mix 200g raw Italian sausagemeat and ½ cup cheddar cheese. Fill each jalapeño with 2-3 teaspoons of filling. Wrap each popper with a strip of prosciutto. Place cut-side up under a hot grill for 8 minutes until prosciutto is beginning to crisp. Remove from heat to cool for 3-4 minutes. Serve with aioli and lemon.

Monterey cheese & bacon poppers
Split 8 jalapeños lengthways and remove seeds. Mix ½ cup cream cheese, 1 cup grated Evansdale Monterey Jack cheese and 1 finely sliced spring onion. Fill each jalapeño with 2-3 teaspoons of cheese mix and wrap in a slice of thin bacon, covering the filling. Place cut-side up on a baking tray, and bake at 170°C for 12-15 minutes until bacon is fully cooked. Allow to cool before serving.

Tofu & ginger poppers
Split 8 jalapeños lengthways and remove seeds. Whip 300g soft tofu, then fold in ¼ cup chopped coriander and 1 tablespoon grated ginger. Fill each jalapeño with 2-3 teaspoons of the mix. Cut 8 nori sheets in half widthways. Brush the nori with water and use to wrap the poppers. Brush each popper with oil and place under a hot grill for 6-7 minutes, until nori is beginning to crisp. Serve with fresh lime wedges.

Paté & parmesan poppers
Split 8 shishito peppers (about 5-6cm long) lengthways and remove seeds. Whip 250g smooth paté then fold through ½ cup grated parmesan. Fill the peppers with 2-3 teaspoons of paté. Dredge each popper in flour, eggwash and breadcrumbs. In a medium-sized pot, heat 1 litre oil to 170°C. Cook 3-4 poppers at a time for 1½ -2 minutes, until golden. Drain. Serve with chutney.

Cream cheese & corn poppers
Split 12 mixed-coloured king sweetie baby capsicums in half lengthways and discard seeds. Mix 250g cream cheese with 150g fresh corn kernels and the juice of ½ orange. Fill the capsicums with 2 generous teaspoons cream cheese mix. Wrap each popper in a slice of streaky bacon to fully cover the filling. Place under a hot grill for 7-8 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Ideal with buttermilk ranch dressing.



Blueberries are enigmatic. They are one of the few foods that are blue/mauve and can add deep colour and flavour. Originally native to North America, they’ve spread around the world; but the blueberry spread didn’t happen by chance, it happened because we love them. This year there may be fewer blueberries around due to late-spring weather, so snap them up if you see them and support the blueberry growers.


Blueberry & shallot relish
Peel and dice two large shallots and an apple. Peel and finely slice two cloves garlic. Place prepared ingredients into a medium-sized pot with 4 cups blueberries, ½ cup sultanas and ½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice and ginger. Add 1 cup brown sugar and ¾ cup cider vinegar. Cook over a medium-low heat for 90 minutes until syrupy and pulped. Store in the fridge. Ideal with fresh bread and cured meats.

Numbing blueberry vinegar
Put 400g blueberries, 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons each black and Sichuan peppercorns into a large, sterilised jar. Bring 1 litre rice vinegar almost to a simmer and pour into the jar. Seal and cool to room temperature. Store somewhere dark, shaking every 2 days for a week. Strain into a clean container and store in the fridge for 6 months. Use as a salad dressing with a spicy kick.

Dried blueberry nougat
Put 200g caster sugar and 50g glucose into a heavy-based pot. Add cold water to barely cover the sugar. Place over a medium heat and, using a candy thermometer, heat to 135°C. Add 60ml liquid honey and continue to heat. Put 1 egg white in an electric mixer and beat to stiff peaks. Once the syrup reaches 145°C, remove from the heat, switch the mixer speed to slow and slowly pour the sugar syrup over the egg white. Increase the speed of the mixer and beat for 6-7 minutes. Fold through 150g flaked almonds and 50g dried blueberries. Pour into an 18cm x 24cm lined tray and spread evenly. Cool to room temperature before cutting.

Blueberry, rocket & feta salad
Remove stalks from 300g washed rocket leaves and place into a large bowl with a finely sliced red onion, 100g blueberries, 150g Danish feta and 1 cup cooked white quinoa. Season to taste and toss gently. In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 120ml olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Ideal with leftover roast chicken or turkey.



There is a good reason guacamole is ubiquitous in Central America – the combination of avocado, citrus and fresh herbs is stunning. We love it, but here is the thing; it doesn’t change too much. But do you know the lift you get when you see a good friend with a new hairstyle? Small changes can have a significant impact.


Avocado & peach guacamole
Dice the flesh of 3 ripe avocados into 2cm pieces. Peel 2 golden queen peaches and dice the flesh into 2cm pieces. Finely slice one spring onion stem. Slice 5 large basil leaves. Fold all ingredients together in a bowl until the edges of the avocado begin to mash. Fold through 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

Avocado, edamame & makrut lime guacamole
Scoop the flesh of 3 ripe avocados into a food processor. Add 1 cup blanched edamame beans, 4 finely sliced makrut lime leaves and 1 finely diced red onion. Pulse 9-10 times to combine all ingredients. Add the juice of 1 lime and ¼ cup chopped coriander. Pulse 2-3 more times to combine. Taste for seasoning. Ideal with scrambled eggs.

Avocado, roast pineapple & serrano guacamole
Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut a whole pineapple into quarters and remove the core. Brush pineapple with oil and roast for 35-40 minutes, then cool. Cut away the skin and place the flesh into a food processor. Add 1 finely sliced serrano chilli with seeds removed and the flesh of 5 ripe avocados. Pulse 9-10 times to combine. Add the juice of 2 limes and 10 finely sliced basil leaves. Pulse again for 10 seconds to combine. Season with salt to taste. Good with grilled pork cutlets.

Avocado, gooseberry & capsicum guacamole
Dice the flesh of 4 ripe avocados and place into a bowl. Add 10 quartered gooseberries and 1 finely chopped green capsicum. Add some fresh oregano leaves and Tabasco sauce. Fold everything together and season with salt. Ideal with barbecued chicken thighs.

Avocado, sundried tomato & sumac guacamole
Dice the flesh of 3 avocados and put into a large bowl. Finely slice 7 sundried tomatoes and add to the bowl along with 1 chopped small red onion and mash together with a wooden spoon. Add the juice of 1 lime and 1 teaspoon each of smoked paprika and sumac. Add ¼ cup chopped flat-leafed parsley and fold it together. Season with salt to taste.



Tomato paste is a pantry staple that many would never have imagined being so versatile. Still, it’s an example of how cooking can often be more about making good use of what you already have than going out and buying new ingredients.


Tomato & plum ketchup
Put 200g tomato paste, 200g stoned plums, 125ml white vinegar, 40ml water, 100g brown sugar and 50g maple syrup into a medium-sized pot. Place over low heat and bring to a simmer. Add ¼ teaspoon each of ground cumin and cinnamon and blend. Return to a simmer for 3-4 minutes and season with salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in the fridge for up to a week. Ideal with spicy sausages.

Sauce vierge
Put 3 tablespoons tomato paste in a medium-sized bowl with 1 small minced clove garlic, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, juice of 1 lemon and 200ml olive oil. Whisk all ingredients together. Add ¼ cup each chopped basil and flat-leafed parsley. Season with salt and white pepper. The sauce is good with medium-rare salmon.

Blackened tomato pizza sauce
Spread 300g tomato paste as thinly as possible onto a lined baking tray. Place under a hot grill and cook for 7-8 minutes until a deep burnished red with charred spots forming. Remove from heat and put into a bowl with 2 teaspoons each dried oregano and thyme. Add 5 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons white vinegar. Mix until smooth. This goes really well with homemade pizza bases or flatbreads.

Sloppy Joe burgers
Heat a medium-sized pot over a high heat with 1 tablespoon oil. Add 500g minced beef and brown for 6-7 minutes, then drain in a colander. Add 1 diced onion, 1 diced green capsicum and 2 crushed cloves garlic to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste, ½ cup ketchup and ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer and add 1 teaspoon each chilli flakes, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Return the beef to the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and serve in warm buttered buns.

Marinara sauce
Put 1 tin (400g) whole peeled tomatoes and 150g tomato paste into a blender and blitz until smooth. Heat 120ml light olive in a medium-sized pot. Add 1 diced medium-sized onion and two sliced cloves garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until tender. Add ½ cup white wine and cook for 4-5 minutes until almost entirely evaporated. Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano and the tomatoes. Simmer for 30 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and black pepper. This makes a beautiful match with meatballs.