Monday, December 17, 2012

The christmas cooking has begun!

With school finished for the year, we had some time on the weekend to start our Christmas cooking.
Yesterday afternoon I tried a new recipe, Portuguese Christmas Cake and two batches of chocolate chip cookies. I know that the chocolate chip cookies are not very christmassy, but this years cooking list was a joint effort.

Starting a little later than usual, our baking list is just as long as previous years.

christmas cookie list

snickerdoodles (because they make these in the Barbie movie: "A Christmas Carol")
swiss chocolate christmas cookies
jasmine’s sparkly stars (the recipe for these is in my daughters princess book)
gingerbread people
scottish shortbread
dutch shortbread
vanilla christmas trees
chocolate chip cookies
monkey face cookies (the recipe for this is from the "Anne of Green Gables Treasury")

honey cookies 

christmas cooking list

fruit mince tarts
rum balls
cherry ripe slice
christmas cake

I haven't even thought about the other christmas cooking that I need to do. There is food to take along to a Christmas Eve barbecue, Christmas Day breakfast and lunch, a Boxing Day barbecue, a New Years Eve barbecue and a New Years Day Picnic.

Today we will be out all day for a children's birthday party, tomorrow I will take a quiet moment and sit with some recipe books for inspiration. Because really... it is just 9 more sleeps!

What are you cooking this Christmas? Do you have any favourite Christmas recipes?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jelly, peaches and ice-cream!

If you read my other blog, you may have read this post about my Nana, who, had she still been alive, would have turned 100 years old last week.

And if you are coming over from Monkeemoomoo for the first time, I have copied this below for you, from the sidebar of this blog. My Nana's roast dinners are the inspiration for the name of this blog, "jelly peaches and ice-cream".

"When I was child, we spent every Sunday night having dinner at my Nana's little cottage on her farm. The menu was the same every week, year after year. Our family wouldn't have had it any other way. We ate Nana's roast chicken with roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, peas, carrots and gravy. Dessert was always jelly, peaches and ice-cream. If you asked me what I wanted my last supper to be: this would be it. Nana's Sunday night dinner."

Last Wednesday, on the day of her birth, I decided to cook a roast dinner, just as she would have done.

While the roast was in the oven, we ate mock chicken with jatz, a party favourite of my Nana's. The tablecloth that my Nan crocheted when she was 16, was brought out for the occasion. It is quite fragile and starting to break in places, it is usually reserved only for Christmas Eve dinner.

Geraniums were cut from the garden and put in a green glass vase that had been hers. Geranium's always remind my of Nan, in fact this particular one, I broke off from outside a country pub and stuck it into the ground, just like she would have done. Much to my surprise it is thriving now, with a flush of red flowers brightening my front landing.

I used the enamel roasting tray that my Nana had bought for me when I was 16 years old. I don't know why, but I rarely use it, but it is perfect for the way she cooks her chicken. It felt good to use it.

As dinner was being prepared, familiar smells filled my kitchen. I couldn't stop smiling. At once, I was a nine year old again. I felt so happy to be now preparing this meal for my own children.

So far so good, it smelled right and even my stove top looked just like Nan's. Her saucepans, her gravy jug, enamel cookware, the chicken resting under alfoil and peas and carrots!

Once dinner was served, it certainly looked the same.

But a few things were different: one, we never had candles on the table at the farm; two, it felt weird drinking red wine with this meal, I was used to drinking fruit cup cordial instead; and three, Nana was not there and Nana did not cook it.

So "Nana's Roast" is a work in progress. I absolutely loved cooking this meal and the memories that it brought back have kept me thinking for days. I want to cook this for my children on a regular basis.

When I left home I asked Nana for her recipe. I had moved a few hours away from my hometown. I remember ringing her from my tiny flat and scribbling down her guesstimate quantities. I think back then, at 17, I cooked this few times, but it was never the same. I stop cooking it, for back then, this was made for me every single time I went home.

But now I want to try and make this as close to the original as possible. I know that it will never be the same, but if I can come close, that will be pretty good too.

Here are some notes that I have made next to that original recipe:

• Nana cooks her chicken in part water - next time I need to add more water. She always ended up with way more gravy than what I got.

•  My recipe said nothing about pumpkin, but I just added it half an hour after the potatoes and it was perfect.

• the gravy needs 1 large onion, that's enough.

• I need to put more butter on the potatoes. I know, not so good for the health conscious, but these roast potatoes are legendary in our family, there were fights over them and it was a very big deal if you got the last one. Yes, for the potatoes, more water and more butter and perhaps a little longer in the oven. Mine were good, but they couldn't touch the originals.

• Maybe less gravox than I had listed in my recipe. And if you need to thin the gravy, just add a little of the vegetable water (that you cooked the peas and carrots in) I did this the other night, just as Nana had done. Perfect, in fact the onion gravy, as always was one of the best bits.

• Cook the chicken for longer and rest the chicken for longer. My Nana's chicken would sit on the stove for hours and it was always hot and melt in you mouth tender. She started cooking early in the day. I started cooking at 5pm, naturally I couldn't hope for perfection.

Another word on the roast potatoes, my daughter proudly got the last potato the other night, she talked about her achievement for days - "Ha Ha, I got the last potato!" To anyone in my family reading this - Does that sound familiar?

After a long trip down memory lane over dinner, it was time for dessert.

Jelly - aeroplane jelly, Nana would make red, green or orange. Peaches - tinned and sliced, never halved. Ice-cream - only ever vanilla (I think it was Pauls or was it Peters?) All I know is, Nan was very particular about the brand of ice-cream. Sometimes Nana would also have custard, instant. I only like Birds instant custard and I am convinced that this is the brand Nana used too.

We had it all... In Nana's bowls with Nana's spoons.

And can I tell you something, the last time I ate this was when Nana was alive. My goodness, over the last eight years, I have been missing out! This is soooo good!

Maybe it's nostalgia? Maybe not.

Eat this now. Forget for just one day, all of those nagging questions:  

"What about all of that sugar and additives and colouring in the jelly?" or "Where do these peaches really come from? How much processing goes into making them?" or "What is really in this ice-cream - preservatives, e numbers and reconstituted milk - really!?" or "What is custard powder actually made of ?" 

Just for one day.

And here is something that would have made my Nana smile. My little boy, eating jelly, peaches, ice-cream and custard, all in separate bowls! The next night (yes, we had it again) he took a leap of faith and mixed them all together in the one bowl.

He is converted.

It just has to be said, that a very special someone once cooked this roast dinner for me, it was along time ago, in her home in Brisbane. It was very, very close to our Nana's. Do you have any tips Mrs Gooseberry?

I would love to know what favourite food or meal your Nana or Grandma cooked for you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meringues and Eton Mess

On the weekend, I decided it was time to make to make meringues and Eton Mess again. Strawberries have started to increase in price and we wanted to make this yummy dessert once more before they become $4:00 a punnet.

First we needed to make the meringues.


makes 40

• 4 eggs (must be at room temperature)
• 115 grams caster sugar
• 115 grams icing sugar

Preheat oven to 100 degrees. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Put the egg whites into a large (very clean) glass or ceramic bowl. Beat the egg whites on medium speed with electric beaters until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks.

Increase the speed and add the caster sugar, one dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between spoonful. It's important to add the sugar slowly, however, don't over-beat. The mixture should be thick and glossy.

Sift one third of the icing sugar over the mixture, and gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the remaining icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift.

Using a dessertspoon, drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the trays and bake for 1 1⁄2 - 1 3⁄4 hours. The meringues are ready when they are a pale coffee colour and sound crisp when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on the trays.

The meringues will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks or frozen for a month.

This recipe is from here, it really is the ultimate recipe!

Chocolate and Coconut Meringues

Add 1 cup of chopped dark chocolate and 1 cup of toasted shredded coconut to the meringues after the sugars have been added.

My daughter first saw Hugh make Eton Mess on the River Cottage Everyday DVD months and months ago and she was smitten. She straight away announced that she would be having it for her birthday dinner, right in the height of strawberry season.

And we did. YUM!!

I think we might have started a new tradition.

Eton Mess

Serves 6 

• 250g strawberries (roughly chopped)
• 250g raspberries (I used frozen)
• 1 tablespoon caster sugar
• 350ml double cream (lightly whipped)
• 20 meringues (broken roughly) - this is half the quantity of the recipe above

Put the strawberries, raspberries and sugar into a large bowl. Roughly crush and squeeze a few of the berries with your hands so the juices start to run. Cover and leave to macerate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Set aside two tablespoons of the macerated fruit to go on top of the Eton Mess.

To assemble: Fold the meringues through the whipped cream. Then gently fold the remaining chilled fruit through the cream mixture, to give a rippled effect. Pile into serving glasses and top with the reserved fruit.

You can make Eton Mess an hour or so in advance, but not much more that that, or the meringue will go weepy in the cream.

This recipe is the River Cottage recipe taken from here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Duck Ragu

A few weeks ago I cooked this delicious duck ragu.

I had never cooked a duck before, although I have eaten it heaps and love it. I think I have just been a little scared if it. TV chefs talk about: twice cooking or pouring boiling water over the duck before cooking, they give tips on how to cook the perfect duck breast or how to get the perfect crispy skin. And don't get me started on confit!

You see, a little daunting.

But the old farmer that I bought my duck from at the growers market was not buying into all of that   chefy mumbo jumbo. He told me to put it into the oven with salt and pepper for 2 hours on 180 degrees. As simple as that. That was right after he told me that the duck I had just bought was walking around the farm quacking away (his words) only two days before.

In any case, in making this recipe I was let off the hook. It is stress free and foolproof. For a start you don't want the skin anyway, so you didn't need to worry about the crispiness.

I was so happy with my duck purchase and of my choice of recipe. By buying my duck from the growers market, I got a freshly killed, free range duck for $18.00 (the same price as a supermarket free-range chicken) From that duck, we have eaten two meals and there is still a small amount of ragu in the freezer. (It froze well) I also have a pot of duck fat in the fridge just waiting to saute some potatoes and the bones were made into a duck stock that has been put into the freezer. I have usually kept away from duck because of the price. Perhaps not anymore.

We took a batch of duck ragu from the freezer away with us on a recent mini break. Here is it in the photo served with rigatoni as that was all that was in the cupboard.

Do cook duck? If so do you have and tried and tested tips?

Duck Ragu with Pappardelle

serves 4-6

• 1 large duck (washed, dried and trimmed of excess fat)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• salt and pepper
• 4 rashers of pancetta or bacon (finely diced)
• 1 onion (finely diced)
• 2 carrots (finely diced)
• 2 stalks celery (finely diced)
• 5 cloves garlic (finely diced)
• 2 x 12cm stalks of rosemary leaves only or 4 leaves of sage (finely chopped)
• 3 x 400 gram tinned tomatoes
• 1/2 cup chicken or duck stock or water
• 250 ml red wine
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 450 grams pappardelle

to serve

the gremolata breadcrumbs

• 1 tablespoon fresh breadcrumbs (toasted)
• 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
• the zest of 2 lemons (finely chopped)
• 2 tablespoons parsley
•  a pinch of salt

• grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Rub the duck with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, both inside and out. Roast for 2 hours, turning the duck every half and hour. Once cooked, remove from the roasting pan and set aside until the duck is cool enough to handle. Reserve the duck fat for another use (roast potatoes - yum)

While the duck is roasting, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to medium high heat, in a heavy based pan. Cook the bacon for 5 minutes or until starting to crisp. Stir occasionally. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and herbs and reduce the heat to low. Cook slowly for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Stir occasionally. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, wine, tomato paste and season to taste. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Once the duck has cooled, remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones (re-use the bones to make stock) Shred the meat and add it to the ragu. Cook over a very low heat for 2 hours. (Gywneth says 1-4 hours - uncovered) adding splashes of water it the sauce becomes to dry.

To make the gremolata, mix all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Cook the pappadelle and serve the ragu over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle each serving with gremolata and put the parmesan on the table.

This recipe was adapted only slightly from Notes from My Kitchen Table.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A good day for soup

We have been away for a few days and I can't tell you how happy we were to get home and to our own beds. We had a great time away but the kids had a hard time settling at night. It was hot because we needed to close all of the windows to block out the sound of crashing waves (Mum! too noisy!) and both children woke at least 3 times every night. Each night I swapped beds with my son at about 2.00am because he wasn't sleeping well in his single bed. Needless say our nights were not the most restful.

So it was a lovely night last night, home and in my comfy old bed with fresh cotton sheets and fluffy doona. I drifted off to sleep to the sound of heavy rain. Just perfect - it was still raining this morning, I awoke to a dark and cold morning. I absolutely love days like this, usually rainy days in Queensland are hot and humid and not enjoyable, but today was fresh - cardigan weather. A good day for soup.

We put on our beanies and jumpers and ate our Sunday morning pancakes outside. Then, with family coming and going all day, I put on a couple of pots of soup. I really wanted to make about five pots of soup, but I thought that was just a little bit ridiculous.

Have I mentioned, I love soup!

It has been a great day, staying cozy and sharing soup made from homemade stock and vegetables picked from our garden, just moments before going into the pot. There was many cups of tea consumed and perhaps a few too many pieces of baklava (I'll post my recipe soon) The kids are in a bubble bath now and my husband is reheating some soup, buttering some sourdough and pouring a nice glass of red.

I hope it rains again tomorrow.

Irish Spinach Broth 

serves 6

• 4 tablespoons butter
• 2 onions (finely diced)
• 2 carrots (finely diced)
• 2 sticks celery (finely diced)
• 4 tablespoons plain flour
• 9 cups chicken stock
• 4 tablespoons oatmeal
• 230 grams spinach (roughly chopped)
• 4 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoons parsley (finely chopped)
• salt/pepper

In a large stock pot, melt the butter and gently sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the oatmeal and spinach and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir through the cream and  parsley and season to taste. Gently heat through and serve with crusty rye bread.

I have been making this recipe for years and have no idea where it originally came from.

I know, I know, all that butter, but please don't substitute it, the soup just won't be the same. The recipe states that you use oatmeal, but I have always used normal oats, as I always have oats at hand and it turns out perfectly.

I remember the first time I ever made this Potato, Bacon and Dill soup. I had only been in London for 2 weeks and I cooked this for lunch for my friend and our two Greek flatmates. It was a day not unlike today, although, a lot colder of course, it was typical February weather, very grey and very wet. This was the perfect food to warm our bones, after a morning of sightseeing. The recipe has been adapted from this book. I had bought the book from Jerry's Home Store a few days earlier.

Potato, Bacon and Dill Soup

serves 4

• 125 grams bacon (diced)
• 1 onion (diced)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 2 tomatoes (diced)
• 3 tablespoons dill (finely chopped)
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 3 potatoes (peeled and diced)
• salt/pepper

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the bacon and onion. Stir in the flour and cook the flour for a few minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and dill and cook for a further few minutes. Gradually stir in the stock 1 cup at a time, making sure there are no lumps. Add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pork Spare Ribs braised in Maple Syrup

I mentioned in my last post that the weather here has been very hot and already, most of our meals have been cooked on the barbecue. Last week I bought some spare ribs to make this recipe, but when we woke to find the day quiet cool, I did a quick Google search for an alternative way to cook my ribs for dinner.

While searching for a recipe I became a little confused. I had it in my mind that I wanted to make something like an American barbecue sauce to braise the ribs in and yes, there are a lot of recipes for this type of thing. That wasn't the confusing part. I realised something, I hadn't realised before (talk about the dumb girl in the class)

Spare ribs aren't ribs!

Thanks Jamie! After about an hour on the computer, I found this Jamie Oliver recipe that I cooked below and a bit of information about 'ribs'.  At my local Australian butcher we call the cut I used 'spare ribs', my butcher also sometimes sells 'american ribs' - these really are ribs! Confused yet?

In Australia, we call this cut of meat 'spare ribs' and in American they call the same cut of meat 'country ribs'. That should help you with own your Google searches in the future.

I was intrigued by this recipe and to be honest wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. It turned out to be a hit. Declared, "the best meal you've ever cooked" by my daughter.

We served these ribs with mashed potatoes and steamed greens (asparagus, beans, zucchini and snow peas). I think this was the perfect accompaniment. The photo above was taken the next night, when the leftovers were turned into a meal, with fried rice, zucchini slice and 'help yourself' salad.

Pork Spare Ribs braised in Maple Syrup

serves 8

• 1.5kg pork spare ribs (cut in half)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 onions (finely diced)
• 3 garlic cloves (crushed)
• salt and pepper
• 120ml maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 480ml chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish to medium-high and brown the ribs in two batches. Set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion begins to soften. Season to taste. Add the maple syrup and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the bubbles become slow and thick. Add the vinegar and cook for about 3 minutes, until well reduced. Add the chicken stock and ribs to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for a total of 2 hours. Cook for 1 hour, then turn the ribs. Cook for another 30 minutes, then remove the lid. Cook for a further 30 minutes until the ribs are tender and flake with a fork.

Jamie says to check the ribs regularly to make sure the pan has enough liquid, adding 50ml water at a time to keep the juices from running dry or burning. I didn't find that I needed to do this, I guess it depends on your oven.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Weekday dinners in our house have been kept fairly simple over the last couple of weeks. 

With the weather already very warm (summers here!), and a garden overflowing with fresh salad greens, there has been limited cooking. A lot of grilled chicken, barbecued meat or quiches all served with a giant 'help yourself salad' salad. 

Last night I made another old favourite, pastitso (pah-STEET-see-oh), a good alternative to lasagne or moussaka. Served again with a big salad, picked fresh from the garden while the sun set. 

And great news, I don't have to cook at all tonight - there are heaps of leftovers!


serves 8  

• 500 grams penne  
• 4 tablespoons olive oil  
• 1 onion (diced)
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)  
• 750 grams lamb or beef mince  
• 1 x 445 gram tinned tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 1/2 cup white wine  
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano  
• 1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

bechamel sauce

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/2 cup flour
• 3 cups milk
• pinch of nutmeg  
• 1 egg (lightly beaten)

• 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
• 3/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a large (24x38cm) baking dish. Cook the penne in boiling water until just cooked. While this is cooking, make the meat sauce. 

In a large pot gently sauté the onion and garlic. Add the meat and cook on a high heat until the meat has browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, white wine, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2o minutes. 

To make the bechamel sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk, and stir slowly until thickened. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the sauce has cooled slightly, stir through the beaten egg. 

To assemble the pastitsio, sprinkle the bottom of the baking dish with the breadcrumbs. Spread over half of the penne and cover with the meat sauce. Then spread over the remaining penne and cover with the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 45- 50 minutes. Leave to sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheats Ice-Cream

 I feel I have neglected this space a little, I'm sorry.

I have been blogging daily for blogtoberfest on my other blog and, can I tell you? it's a just a little bit time consuming. In truth I haven't been cooking that much either, I have been fighting off (not so successfully) the dreaded flu. Mealtimes over the last couple of weeks have been very simple fare.

But today I wanted to get in and cook with strawberries before the season ends. We are lucky to have strawberry farms all around us and for the moment, the prices are still good. I have made jam (oh the smell of it) and this ice-cream.

I used to make this ice-cream all of the time, it is so easy to whip up. I have also made it before with passion fruit and once with fresh peaches. I hadn't made it for years. It has been given the thumbs up by the kids, so I think I will be making it quite a few more times this summer.

You should strain the strawberries, but I never do, basically because I'm lazy, but you can if you want.

Strawberry Ice-Cream 

makes 1.5 litres of ice-cream

• 600 grams thickened cream
• 1 x 400 gram tin condensed milk
• 250 grams strawberries (pureed)

Put the cream and condensed milk in a large bowl and beat with electric beaters until thick and soft peaks have formed. Fold through the strawberry puree and mix well. Pour into a container and freeze overnight. 

Remove from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before serving. 

Passionfruit Ice-cream

• if you want to make passionfruit ice-cream, add the pulp of 5 passionfruits instead of the pureed strawberries.

I'd love to know what flavours you might make from this recipe.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Before the warmer weather returns again, I thought I would share this recipe with you. It was one of the recipes I cooked up last week (for the freezer) and one that I made a couple of times over the winter.

As with most casseroles, it is simple and delicious.

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

serves 4

• 1 kilogram lamb - leg or shoulder (cut into 5cm pieces)
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 onions (cut into wedges)
• 1/2 cup tomato paste
• 1 eggplant (cut into 5cm pieces)
• 1 large red capsicum (cut into 5cm pieces)
• 2 1/2 cups beef stock
• salt and pepper
• 1 sprig parsley

to serve

• 1 tablespoon parsley (finely chopped)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown the lamb in two batches. Set the lamb aside and add the onions to the pan. Cook for two minutes and then add the tomato paste. Cook for one minute and return the lamb to the pan. Add the eggplant, capsicum and stock. Season to taste. Stir well to combine and bring to the boil. Cover and put into the oven for 1 1/2 hours. After this time, remove the lid and return to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to the desired consistency. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.

I usually like to serve this with mashed potatoes and green beans, but rice or polenta would probably also be good.

This was adapted from a recipe in "Australian Table" magazine

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Comfort food

If you have been reading my other blog, you would know that we arrived home from our holidays almost a week ago. Over at Monkeemoomoo, I have joined up for Blogtoberfest, which means I have been busy blogging daily and therefore I have been neglecting this space.

But I have been cooking. On the very day that we arrived home, my large garage freezer broke down and two days later my indoor fridge/freezer broke down. (lets not even mention the dvd player and the vacuum cleaner!!)

So, although I was hoping for a quiet week, with minimal cooking, I let the meat continue to defrost and then spent a couple of days cooking like there was no tomorrow. I have made: two different lamb curries, two different chicken curries, a lamb and eggplant casserole, a duck ragu, braised chinese spare ribs, three large tubs of bolognese sauce and roasted a chicken that was then used in a couple of different chicken salads.

Some tasted good and I will share the recipes later in the week, while others are just so so.

Speaking of things tasting good, I forgot to mention that after three full days of driving, the kids and I arrived home to find that my husband had cooked us up a treat.  He had made this delicious Beef and Guinness Pie (half the cheese) for dinner, served with greens and 'to die for' mashed potatoes, then chocolate mousse for dessert.

Honestly it was one of the best meals I had ever eaten. It was good to be home. The perfect comfort food.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honey joys and holidays

I was never one for chocolate crackles.

When I was a child, at birthday parties, kids went crazy for them, but I didn't touch them. For my birthday parties, I always asked Mum to make me honey joys.

I love to make these for my own children now, using my Mum's original recipe that had been clipped from the side of a Kelloggs Cornflakes box, sometime during the mid seventies. I like to make them on my kids birthday's or over the school holidays, when there is usually plenty of kids around to enjoy the treat. I have a feeling I will be whipping up some honey joys these holidays, as we are going to visit our cousins.

We are going to be away for 3 weeks. Our family's first road trip. I will not be blogging here during my time away, but I am sure to be back with lots of new food inspiration.

Until then.... enjoy your own school holidays (if you are a mum) and happy cooking.

Honey Joys

makes 24

• 90 grams butter
• 1/3 cup caster sugar
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 4 cups cornflakes

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Set out the paper patty cases onto a tray. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and honey until the butter has melted and the mixture is frothy. Add the cornflakes and mix well. Spoon into the patty cases and bake for 10 minutes.

Oh.... and another thing, totally unrelated.....

Since changing my template a few weeks ago, I have noticed quiet a few posts with spacing problems, both in the recipes and between the pictures. I don't like to leave this space this way, but I haven't had the time to fix the problem. If you are visiting or cooking from this space, I apologise in advance for some higgledy piggledy posts that you might find.

It is the first thing on my 'to do' list when I return from holidays. We should be back to normal in no time.

Monday, September 17, 2012

More Cake!

I have been meaning to make this cake forever. I usually make a lemon pound cake, but wanted to try this one for my daughters birthday barbecue in the park on the weekend. Pound cakes are perfect for transporting.

Served with lashings of whipped cream and piles of sweet, local strawberries, this was a hit. It happily fed the 25 people at the party, a few of the big boys (a.k.a Dad's) were seen going back for seconds.

I only had half a piece and I am going to make it again. I wonder if I could put a little less sugar in it next time? The raw mixture had tasted like pure ice-cream, very sweet ice-cream. But when served with the unsweetened whipped cream, there was a good balance. I have written the recipe here, just as Paula Dean's grandmother would have made it.

I have also added some 'bundt cake tin' secrets.

This was my first bundt cake that came out perfectly. Perhaps it was my 'new tips' or perhaps it was just the non stick tin, I'm not sure. Earlier on in the year, I bought a smaller, German made, bundt tin from the op shop. It is so cute, but it is old and doesn't have a modern non-stick surface. When I used it, the cake got stuck (the tin is deep and narrow). It was not pretty.

Do you have trouble with Bundt tins?

Sour Cream Pound Cake

makes 1 large bundt cake

• 225 grams butter (softened)
• 3 cups caster sugar
• 6 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup sour cream
• 3 cups plain flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Grease and flour a 25cm diameter Bundt tin*. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and then the sour cream. Mix well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.

* How to remove a cake from a Bundt tin

• It is important to grease the tin properly before baking the cake. Using a pastry brush, coat the Bundt tin with solid vegetable shortening. (I used butter) Make sure that you have greased the entire tin thoroughly, including all of the nooks and crannies.

• Dust the tin lightly with flour. Tap the tin with the palms of your hand to distribute the flour evenly throughout the Bundt tin. Turn the tin over to remove any excess flour. Regrease and reflour any areas of the tin where the flour did not stick.

• Just before the cake is finished baking, place a folded bathroom towel in the kitchen sink. Soak the towel with boiling water. When the cake comes out of the oven, place the tin on top of the towel and let it sit for 10 seconds.

• To unmold the cake, immediately invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Use care as the cake will be very hot.

• If the cake starts to break apart before it's out of the tin, allow the cake to cool in the tin for an additional 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a rubber spatula or plastic knife. Try to unmold the cake again, using the same steam-removal method.

I used this 'steam-removal method' and my cake came out perfectly. I'm now digging out all of those European cake recipes that use a Bundt tin. Honestly, I had avoided making them, for fear of disaster.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lemon and Blueberry Cake

I never did get back to the computer yesterday afternoon to write up this recipe. I have been wanting to post this all week.

I first discovered this cake at the beginning of the lemon season and have made it a few times over the last couple of months. I made it again last week when a friend came for morning tea. It's a good cake to make when friends come over because it is quick and dead easy. It's as easy to make as any simple loaf cake, but very impressive, as if you have gone to a lot of trouble.

I guess my secret is out now, here is the recipe.

Lemon and Blueberry Cake

make 1 loaf

• 225 grams butter (softened)
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2/3 cup plain flour
• 1 cup ground almonds
• 2/3 cup polenta
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• zest and juice of 1 lemon
• zest and juice of 1 lime
• 1 cup blueberries

for the lemon syrup

• juice of 1 lemon
• 1/2 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour a standard 11x21cm loaf tin. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined. Fold in the flour, almonds, polenta, baking powder and the lemon and lime zest and juice. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40 minutes. Cover with foil and bake for a further 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Allow to sit in the tin for 5 minutes. 

Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a small bowl. Poke the cake all over with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cake. Leave it to soak into the cake, before turning it out to cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is from "Bills Basics"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Couscous Salad

Before you read this: This is an old post. I have been going through and enlarging my photos on old posts this morning. Do not ask me why this one was published here!? Instead of back in 2011 where it belongs! Oh Blogger! Time for a cup of tea I think.

In any case, if you are a new reader you might be happy to discover this recipe, perfect for the weather we are having now. I will be posting a new recipe later today. Stay tuned.

Yes, I know it is not summer, but I have decided to share this recipe anyway. It was, however, a very summery day here on Sunday when I made it for a picnic by the river. The cherry tomatoes were so delicious and sweet they were like little lollies bursting in your mouth.

I have been making this basic recipe for a long time. I often add different ingredients, depending on what it is being served with, the season or what's in the fridge. I love to add roasted vegetables, feta, nuts or different herbs. This salad also keeps well if you make it the day before.

Summer Couscous Salad

serves 4-6

• 1 1/2 cups of instant couscous
• 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 1/2 tables. ground cumin
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• 1 x 250 gram punnet of cherry tomatoes (halved)
• 1/2 continental cucumber (diced)
• 1/2 red onion (diced)
• 4 shallots (sliced)
• 1 x 400 gram tin chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
• 1 handful flat-leaf parsely (torn)
• 1 handful mint leaves (torn)
• zest of 1 lemon
• salt and pepper

Bring the chicken stock to the boil. place the couscous into a heatproof bowl and pour over 1 cup of the chicken stock. Fluff the couscous with a fork as the stock is absorbed. Add the remaining stock if required, all couscous brand will soak up the stock differently. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan and gently saute eh garlic. Stir in the cumin and fry for half a minute. Stir in the lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the couscous. Mix through the other ingredients and serve.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I've been doing it all wrong!

During the week I cleaned out (organised) our freezer. We have a large stand alone freezer in the garage that I could not live without. Down in it's depths I found the remains (leftover bones) of 7 chicken roast dinners and 4 lamb roasts. So needless to say, I have been making pots and pots of stock this week.

I also found a million little bags of bread ends. Since I left home at 17, I have been keeping the stale ends of good bread and putting it into the freezer to be made into breadcrumbs. However about a month ago I was watching the a River Cottage DVD and realised that I've been doing it all wrong.

Thanks Hugh for the great tip: dry out the bread in the oven before blitzing them in the food processor!

Such a simple thing.

I used to defrost the bread, process it into breadcrumbs, then return the breadcrumbs to the freezer, ready to use. Hugh's way, means that there is no moisture left in the bread, so they can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry instead and not take up precious freezer space. Brilliant.

You never do stop learning.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

• leftover pieces of stale bread (defrosted if necessary and broken up)

Preheat oven to 100 degrees. Put the broken up pieces of bread on to a flat baking tray and bake for 2 hours. Leave the bread to cool completely before processing in a food processor to fine breadcrumbs. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Raspberry and Lemon Muffins

Another yummy muffin recipe I have made recently was this one. Last week when I dropped my daughter to her class I saw this notice on the whiteboard. 

"Mum's Morning Tea 10:00am Wednesday"

That day! Somehow I hadn't noticed this on the days previous. Oh no!

I guess I could have just popped down to the local IGA and bought a packet of biscuits, but honestly, that just didn't occur to me. I just asked myself, what was the quickest thing I knew how to make. Muffins! I raced home and whipped up this quick recipe. They were on the morning tea table at school just minutes after coming out of the oven. Perfect.

I'll be honest, the kids did not love them, but the mums did. Loved them! With high praise for my muffins and high praise for my daughters schoolwork, it turned out to be a very unexpected and pleasant morning. 

Raspberry and Lemon Muffins 

makes 16 - 20 muffins

• 275 grams plain flour
• 100 grams caster sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• a pinch of salt
• 210 ml milk
• 1 egg (lightly beaten)
• 75 grams butter (melted)
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 150 grams raspberries or blueberries
• 1 teaspoon lemon zest (finely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Grease and flour two 12 hole muffin tins. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl or jug, mix together the milk, egg, melted butter and lemon juice with a whisk, until well combined. Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and  stir gently to combine. Add the berries and lemon zest, halfway through mixing. Do not over mix. The mixture will be a bit lumpy. Use a tablespoon to put into muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Making Muffins

Every toddler or baby cookbook I've ever picked up was filled with muffin recipes. During those early years of motherhood I must have tried millions of new muffin recipes.

My kids never ate them.

Happily, my muffins were a welcomed gift at any playgroup that we attended, so I guess it was not a complete waste. Not long ago, my cousin told me how she was making muffin's every other day. With the exception of blueberry muffins, I hadn't cooked muffins for ages.

I dug out an old folder of some tried and tested recipes. They were an instant hit with my, now school aged, children.

And so it is, that we have returned to making muffins in this house - almost every other day!

Here are two recipes that we have been making over the last month, in our house yoghurt and strawberries have been plentiful.

Berry, Yoghurt and White Chocolate Muffins 


makes 16-20

• 1 1/2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
• 1/2 cup caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 2 eggs (lightly beaten) 
• 1 cup yoghurt
• 1 cup mixed berries
• 100 grams white chocolate (roughly chopped)

• icing sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour two 12 hole muffin tins. In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the sugar. In a small bowl or jug, mix together the oil, eggs and yoghurt with a whisk, until well combined. Pour the yoghurt mixture over the dry ingredients and  stir gently to combine. Add the berries and chocolate, halfway through mixing. Do not over mix. The mixture will be a bit lumpy. Use a tablespoon to put into muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. 

Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Strawberry and Buttermilk Muffins

makes about 24

• 380 grams plain flour
• 150 grams caster sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
• pinch of salt
• 150 grams butter (melted)
• 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
• 300 ml buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/2 cup strawberries (roughly chopped)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Grease and flour two 12 hole muffin tins. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt. In a small bowl or jug, mix together the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla with a whisk, until well combined. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the dry ingredients and  stir gently to combine. Add the strawberries halfway through mixing. Do not over mix. The mixture will be a bit lumpy. Use a tablespoon to put into muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. 

Editors note: I have updated this recipe (5-10-12) changing the cooking temperature and time for a much better result. Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's time for healthy eating

After a few weeks of over eating and indulgence, it is no wonder that this book practically jumped into my hands at the library this morning. I wasn't looking for it, it was just there. This is definitely the type of food that I need to be eating over the coming weeks. Fresh, simple, raw and in moderation.

No more coffee, cake (maybe just a little) red meat, cheese, bread, chocolate, fried food or wine (ok, maybe just a little bit of that too)

As I look back at the food we ate on our holiday, one thing stays with me. The food tasted delicious because, mostly, it was seasonal, local and cooked with care. Simple, old fashioned techniques, slow and unpretentious. Perfect.

It is the lesson to be learned here. I already know this about food, but often I am in a rush to get dinner on the table and kids off to bed. But I intend to make much more of an effort in the future, because really shouldn't we be 'eating like kings' everyday?
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