Hidden veggies

Getting the kids to eat their veggies is no mean feat. All they seem to want are burgers or chicken nuggets when you want to feed them the healthy stuff. Michael Diacono has some great ideas for giving the kids what they want whilst also getting some of their five-a-day in there. Try these delicious marrow and cheese balls that come with a delicious dipping sauce that adds some fun to a meal or his aubergine burgers with homemade patties and aubergines – so good even the grown ups will be digging in!

Aubergine burgers



  • 500g beef and pork mince
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 100g Parmesan
  • Handful breadcrumbs
  • Handful oats
  • 1 – 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 long aubergines
  • Flour, for dusting
  • Olive oil, for frying

Tomato and garlic sauce

• Olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tin tomatoes
• 2 tsbp sugar
• Handful basil
• Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Mix together the minced meat, garlic, parsley, thyme, Parmesan, breadcrumbs and oats and mix well.
  3. Add one egg and if the mixture is still too dry add the other.
  4.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  5. Top and tail the aubergines and cut into an even number of slices.
  6. Place a large tablespoon of meat mixture on one slice and top with another slice.
  7. Dust the aubergine burger in flour and gently fry on each side until the aubergines become golden.
  8. To make the tomato sauce, heat some olive oil and fry the garlic on low heat for a few mins.
  9. Add the vinegar and the tomatoes.
  10. Add the basil, sugar, salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 20 mins.
  11. Transfer the aubergine burgers to a baking tray and bake for 25 mins.
  12. Serve aubergine burgers with tomatosauce and some more freshly chopped parsley.


Marrow and cheese balls



  • Olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large marrows
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful pine nuts
  • ½ lemon, zest only
  • 2 large handfuls fresh breadcrumbs
  • Handful mint
  • Handful parsley
  • Handful Pecorino, grated
  • 1 whole mozzarella di buffola
  • 1 egg
  • Flour for dusting

Dipping sauce

  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion and garlic until soft.
  3. Dice the marrows and add to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the pine nuts and lemon zest and allow to cook for approx. 7 mins.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, mint, parsley and Pecorino.
  6. Cut the mozzarella into bite sized pieces and add to the mixture.
  7. Add the egg and mix well.
  8. Roll 1 tbsp of mixture into a ball and roll in the flour, placing on a baking tray when finished.
  9. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
  10. Top with olive oil and place in the oven for approx. 10 – 15 mins until golden.
  11. Allow to rest for 10 mins.
  12. In a separate bowl mix the mayonnaise, yoghurt, salt, pepper, olive oil in a bowl and top with nigella seeds.
  13. Serve the marrow cheese balls on a bed of rocket with lemon wedges and some of the mayonnaise mixture on the side.

Michael Diacono