Jane's Delicious Garden Blog

Madagascan Magic

Posted in Travels by Jane Griffiths on the February 15th, 2018

I had been in Madagascar for half an hour and already could feel its magic. Our driver stopped the car a few kilometres from Nosy Be airport. As he walked into the plantation of gnarly trees on the side of the road, I thought it was for the call of nature. But no, he reappeared with a handful of creamy yellow flowers.

Ylang Ylang (3)

Ylang Ylang (1)

“Here, smell,” he said, crushing them under my nose. As the sweet fragrance filled the car, I realised this was ylang ylang, the exotic scent that gives Nosy Be its nickname of Perfume Island. Nosy Be is the largest of over 250 islands that surround Madagascar. It was our jumping off point to explore a small section of the north west of this magical country.

First stop was Vanila Hotel, one of many places named after the exotic orchid. Not surprising as 80% of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar.


It was a hard choice between the pool or the gorgeous ocean in front of the hotel – so we did both.


In the morning we heard thumping on our roof and when we investigated we found guys busy fixing the palm fronds. Many buildings in Madagascar are made using local materials, in particular the Traveller’s Palm or Ravenala madagascariensis.


This fascinating tree is not actually a palm – it is a close relative of our indigenous Strelitzia. The base of the leaf catches and stores rainwater, providing sustenance to a thirsty traveller – hence its name. Its symmetrical fan shape is instantly recognisable. The dried leaves create a beautiful pattern when used for thatching.



From Nosy Be we caught a boat to the mainland, getting caught in the morning rush hour.


Our destination was Ankarana National Park, a plateau on the north west of the mainland. Its 150 million year-old limestone has eroded away over the millennia to create a jagged grey spiky landscape. Getting there is not easy. The road has also eroded away and the driver of our 4×4 had to negotiate his way slowly. We averaged 20kms an hour.



On the way we stopped at a little restaurant next to a waterfall for a delicious meal made by local village women.

Beignets at the market

We ate tasty fritters followed by a chicken and tomato stew with rice. It had a leafy green in it that made my tongue tingle and mouth salivate. A unique culinary sensation. I later discovered the plant being sold everywhere in the markets and learned that it’s an Acmella oleracea, a member of the daisy family. If you eat the fresh flowers or leaves they make your mouth go numb, which is why it is also known as the toothache plant or buzz buttons.



On our lunch table was a superb hot and spicy chilli sauce in a recycled jar. If this didn’t straighten my hair nothing is going to!!!


After an eight hour journey we arrived at the park. And the next day we were ready to explore the magic of the tsingy – the local name for the karst limestone formations. To get there we hiked for a few hours through subtropical forests.



As the forest dropped away, we entered the tsingy.


It is a protected park and you have to go with a guide who knows where the designated pathways are.



Fascinating rock formations – a cross between a lunar landscape and coral.



A few tight squeezes . . .


A baobab on the way back just before sunset.


This was just day two of our Madagascan adventure, more to come . . .

If you want to follow in our footsteps go to Animal Tracks Islandventures to book your Madagascan adventure.

Veg galore!

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the February 5th, 2018

Tonight’s dinner:

* Roast eggplant with basil oil and dukkah

* Squash stuffed with cherry tomatoes, ciabatta and feta

* Crispy purple potato chips. 

* Cut a freshly picked eggplant in half lengthways. Score it deeply in a criss cross pattern. 

* Rub all over with basil blended with olive oil, mounding the basil on the cut side. Sprinkle with black pepper.  

* Sprinkle with dukkah. Bake at 200 until melting (about 30-40 minutes.)


* Cut a ‘lid’ out of a medium size round squash. Scoop out the pips and steam the squash (and lid) until just tender. 

* Mix together stuffing: cherry tomatoes (sliced in half), crumbled feta , ciabatta cubes fried in olive oil til crispy, basil blended in olive oil, pine nuts, dried crispy onions and finely sliced red onions (marinaded in red wine vinegar and dried oregano for an hour). 

* Fill steamed squash with stuffing, bake at 200 for ten minutes then place under grill for a few minutes to brown. 


* Slice two purple potatoes in thin slices. Steam with the squash til tender. 

* Sauté in olive oil, turning often, until crisp. 

* Sprinkle with sea salt. 

Fresh summer lasagna

Posted in Garden Diary by Jane Griffiths on the February 1st, 2018

Cherry tomatoes popping with flavour. Eggplants, mellow  and melting. All wrapped up in sheets of pasta, dripping with cheesy sauce and fresh basil. On the side, a fig, feta and avo salad. I don’t want summer to end!

Summer Lasagna 

* Cut two eggplants into chunky slices. Cook in olive oil until soft, adding some chopped garlic half way through. 

* While eggplant is cooking make a white sauce with butter and flour, adding plenty of paprika and dried Italian herbs. Stir in grated Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. 

* Cut cherry tomatoes in half and roughly chop a bunch of basil. 

* Put a little of the cheese sauce on the bottom of an oven proof dish. Add a layer of lasagna sheets. 

* Add the eggplant in one layer. Pour some of the cheese sauce over. Add a layer of lasagna sheets.  

* Add the cherry toms in one layer. Pour some of the cheese sauce over. Add a layer of lasagna sheets.  

* Pour the last of the cheese sauce on top and add  grated mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and top with a spray of cherry toms

* Bake at 200 for 20 minutes. 

Fig, avo and feta salad. 

* Slice fresh figs in quarters. 

* Cut feta and avo into chunks. 

* Toss with lettuce and serve with balsamic and olive oil.