Thursday 7 January 2021

Chicken mango and avocado salad

It's summer in Brisbane. Hot days, balmy nights and endless days in the pool. These are the times you don't want anything hot happening in your kitchen. Even the air fryer. Even the outdoor BBQ. You want cold food, that's fresh and vibrant and full of flavour. You also want food that's quick and easy to assemble so you can get back to the pool. Or your margarita. This meal ticks every single box.

Serves 6-8 depending on appetites. 

Ingredients for the salad

One bbq chicken from Woolies (or Coles, if you swing that way)
Two ripe mangoes (or two cans of tinned mangoes if you can't find fresh)
One large ripe avocado
One punnet of cherry tomatoes 
One lebanese cucumber
One red onion
One bag of mixed leaves (from Woolies, or Coles if you swing that way)
One bunch of coriander
One packet of slivered almonds - for topping

Ingredients for the dressing

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3 teaspoons honey
3 garlic clovers, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


Start chopping. Get the hubs or the kids involved. Or your mother-in-law if she's with you, might shut up her nagging for a while. 

  • Shred the chicken, snack on the skin, you want it to be in reasonably small bite-sized pieces
  • Dice the mangoes to about 1cm square. Make sure you chew on the seed.
  • Dice the avocado to about 1cm square. Don't chew on the seed. 
  • Quarter the cherry tomatoes - or halve them if you're feeling lazy
  • Slice then quarter the cucumber
  • Chop the onion in half (after you remove the outer skin idiot) and thinly slice
  • Chop up the coriander, or if you prefer, pick the leaves
  • Toast the slivered almonds (heat a fry pan to moderate, add the almonds - no oil - and kinda toss them around like you're a professional chef until they brown and smell amazing)

Now, start building. I put half the leaves down, then chicken, then half of everything (not the almonds) then do it again. Like a trifle. Just keep moving things around so the colours are evenly spread and the whole bloody thing looks amazing. Top with coriander and toasted almonds. 

For the dressing, put all ingredients in a mason jar and shake. Adjust to suit. I usually end up adding more mustard and honey. Side note - any leftover dressing doesn't need to be refrigerated. 

Serve the dressing on the side. This way, if there's leftovers, they won't get all odd and soggy, but will rise again for a snack the next day. 

Enjoy with a margarita. 

Saturday 17 August 2019

Creamy chicken and tarragon stew

So the ridiculous thing about this recipe is that it heralds from the good folk at Weight Watchers, or WW as they now prefer, except I then went and fatted it. (Made that word up but you know what I mean.) WW is a stalwart. This mob has out-survived most competitors in the diet industry. They promote their brand in such a way that it makes you feel like you need to lose weight or you're missing out on some fun. Like another 10 years of life or wearing your size 10 jeans.

I own a veritable library of their recipe books and dip in and out of their online space all the time, because I, too, wouldn't mind another 10 years and even though the smallest size jeans I've ever owned are a 12, I still harbour fantasy I'll wear them again.

I like their recipes because they're simple to make (great for mid-week), use heaps of veggies (tick tick tick) and the flavour is pretty ok. The secret is to stick to their exact list of ingredients. Do not add an extra teaspoon of oil or an extra cup of double cream. Don't do what I do. Or, do what I do and wear whatever size jeans feel comfy.


500g chicken thighs, chopped to about 2cm pieces
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
4 bacon rashers, diced (not too small, you want to be able to see them)
2 garlic cloves, squashed and diced finelh
Cornflour or plain flour - a few tablespoons
Mustard powder - a few tablespoons
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut kinda thickly
500g or so of potatoes, cut into large chunks
Fresh tarragon leaves (strip them off the stem but don't cut them)
3-4 cups chicken stock
Spinach leaves - heaps
Cream - the quantity is up to you (I used half a cup but you can omit it if you're a WW slave)


(If you're smart, you would have noticed that I made you do all the chopping in the ingredients section.)

Bonus: this meal can be cooked on the stove in one pot, so use a big one with a lid.

Add the chicken, flour and mustard powder to a plastic bag and shake (or just put them all in a bowl and mix)

Cook the chicken in batches and remove from the heat. Add the bacon, leek and garlic and cook it for a few minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the potato, carrot and tarragon. Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer (lid off) for about 45-50 minutes.

Add the spinach and the optional cream and stir until the spinach has wilted.

Believe me it's way better with the cream. Don't tell WW.

Friday 24 August 2018

Spicy miso pork ramen

I need to find a way to make you want to make this. I can offer taste tests, evidenced-based reviews and margaritas. It's a Jamie Oliver recipe and if you're not a fan of him, I beg you to put that to one side and give this a crack. 

Its beauty lies in its simplicity. And cleverness. The ability to create such depth of flavour with so little expended effort. And so few ingredients. 

Now I'm a fan of the complicated. Hard to find ingredients where I need to walk down a side alley in Fortitude Valley and knock a secret code on a door to have a parcel of obscure spices slipped out. Or drive upwards of 50km in a north, south, east or westerly direction (well not really east because that would land me in Moreton Bay but you get my enthusiasm) to garner one of the six available black truffles. 

Everything on this list I could bang together at my local Woolies at Morningside. And I truly believe that if I stretch it, I could find identical ingredients at Woolies at Cannon Hill and Woolies at Wynnum Plaza. I'm not too sure about Capalaba. Or Logan. But these days you never know. If you're a Brisbane eastern suburbs local, you'll be nodding by now. Happy to hear feedback from Kallangur and Morayfield. 

Measurements have never really been my thing so take what I provide as a guide and use your instinct. And bloody keep tasting it ok. That's one thing Manu gets right in his world with too much affected accent and colourful jackets. He repeatedly tells cooks to taste. Bloody taste. 

Best you make it before the daytime temp starts hovering around 30 or save it for next winter. It's not really a summer dish. 
You can buy these from Woolies

Serves 4. Or 2. Depending on how hungry you are.


Oil (rice bran, sunflower, vege, whatever)
2-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I've been known to use 7 hence the wide arc)
3-6cm piece of ginger, grated
250g pork mince
¼ cup mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup red miso paste
1 tablespoon chilli paste (I used that sambal olek - see pic - and it was magnificent)
1 litre chicken stock (Campbells is fine but don't get salt-reduced)
2 eggs
Ramen noodles (use the whole three bunches, fuck it)
2 bunches pak choy or bok choy


Heat oil in a frypan over medium to high heat. Now this can be on the stove, or you can use your electric wok.

Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes until that fabulous aroma fills your kitchen and your heart.

Now you need a bit of commitment for this next bit. Consider a soothing beverage to keep you company.

Add the mince and continually stir, breaking it up and getting it brown all over.

Combine the mirin, soy, miso and chilli in a bowl then pour it over the nicely browned pork. Keep with it, on a reasonably high heat, stirring and turning, stirring and turning, until the mince is a really rich brown and has started to caramelise. When that happens cook it for another 1-2 minutes despite your instincts telling you to get it the fuck off the stove. Now you can take it off the heat.

Please listen to me. It may take a few minutes to work with this mince but trust me when I say it will be worth it. Just keep the heat to it and keep turning it. You can certainly do other things while you're chained to the stove - watch Netflix, scream at children, drink wine, scroll through Instagram. Better still, post a pic to Insta. Tag me.

Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring it to the boil then it can simmer patiently until it's needed.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch) boil some water in a saucepan so you can cook the eggs - if possible, you want the eggs to be at room temperature before you put them in the water. Once they're in the water, cook them for four minutes and not a second longer. When the buzzer goes (because I am assuming you have set the timer on your iPhone X), get them out, and plunge them into some ice cold water that you just happened to have on standby. This stops the cooking process. It's like face-palming the egg.

To cook the noodles, I boil a full kettle, pour the water into a glass or ceramic bowl, add the noodles and let them do their thing for 3-5 minutes, then I strain them in a colander and give them a quick rinse.

Chop the ends off the pak/bok choy, microwave for a minute.

Now is the time to build.

Put noodles in the bottom of the bowl. Put the pak/bok choy on top. Then divide the mince between the 2 or 3 or 4 bowls. Pour over the hot stock. Peel and halve the eggs and pop on top of it all. Wait about 2-3 minutes and then watch how the stock takes on the properties of the chilli and becomes rich and dark and so full of intense flavour.

Thank you Jamie. Sometimes you annoy me. This is not one of those times.

You want to be eating this baby with chopsticks and one of those fabulous Asian spoons.

Jamie suggests topping it with bamboo shoots, spring onion, sesame seeds etc. I couldn't be fucked but you go right ahead.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Salmon poke bowls

This is the one I made last week
Now I quietly think the Japanese pinched this idea from me. Despite this blog eulogising my adoration to food, food prep and all things gourmet, I secretly have a penchant for chucking random stuff in a bowl. Usually this random stuff is left over, on its last legs or was something I forgot I had. I've thrown strawberries and sultanas in with left over curry and topped the lot with avocado and ricotta. That sort of thing. 

My daughter loves to eat this way too and thinks we should co-author a recipe book called "Chuck Shit In". I think it would walk off the shelves and make all those Masterchef wannabes a little nervous. Plus I love books with swear words in the title. The Subtle Art etc. 

Wakame - Japanese seaweed salad

Anyway these little puddles of gorgeousness are my absolute favourite thing to make. They can be brunch, lunch, dinner or all three. The best part is they need very little cooking and you can go a little rogue on what you put with the salmon. The colours are captivating. 

But always eat them with chopsticks. It's way more fun. Just nick some from Sushi Station. 

Ingredients (Now, remember I said you had options with what you put with it? Well, I'm putting down what I use but don't be led by me. You too have an imagination.)

Sashimi grade salmon (I live close to the Fish Factory on Lytton Rd which is an excellent stockist of sashimi products) (If there's two of us, I use one fillet. If there's more of you, you'll need to do some  maths.)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Brown rice (go on, be lazy, buy the tub you heat for 40 seconds)
Edamame (shelled, cooked, cooled)
Wakame (the fancy name for that fabulous Japanese seaweed salad)
Cherry tomatoes, quartered
This is a pic I got from the internet and it's fabulous
Avocado, cubed
Cucumber, sliced then quartered
Grated carrot
Corn kernels
Pickled ginger (out of the jar or nick some from Sushi Station)
One boiled egg, halved (nice if the centre still a bit soft and runny)
Toasted sesame seeds


Cut the salmon into 2cm cubes, or thereabouts.

Which the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin and ginger in a bowl then toss through the salmon.

Heat the rice, or cook it if you're being good, and put it in a noodle bowl.

Decorate around the top of the rice with the edamame, wakame, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, carrot and corn.

Heap the salmon on top, you don't need to drain the liquid. Top with the ginger, egg and sesame seeds.

Serve with green tea.


Saturday 4 August 2018

Soba noodles with tofu & miso dressing

To me, this dish is like that pathetic friend we all had one of at school, where they'd do anything for you just to hang with your group. They'd buy you your lunch, give you their lunch, carry your bag and feed you compliments, as long as they were with your group. To paraphrase Selina Meyer, they'd be happy if you shot them in the face. That's the best analogy I can give you about this.

It's not quite a salad, yet you could have it as a stand-alone meal. It's not quite a side, but you could put it with some rare roast beef and some steamed greens. Or slice some salmon sashimi and plonk this on top. You can have it cold straight from the fridge, or warm it up a bit. Take it to work for lunch and if you get a better offer, it will still be happy to see you the next day. 

It takes longer to poo than it does to make this, that's if you take your phone in with you. For fuck's sake, the directions only have two steps! Enjoy, it's nice to be back xo


270g dried soba noodles (that whole packet of three)
2/3 cup frozen peas (I used edamame as well)
150g snow peas, halved diagonally
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup white miso paste
1 tbs horseradish cream
¼ cup rice bran oil
2 cups firmly packed rocket
1 carrot, coarsely grated
3 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
200g packet Japanese marinated firm tofu, cut into thick strips (get this from Woolies)
some dried nori, shredded


Cook noodles in boiling water according to packet instructions, adding peas and snow peas for the last minute of cooking time. Drain. Refresh under cold water. Drain.

Meanwhile, whisk juice, miso, horseradish, 1 tbs water and oil in a large bowl until combined. Add noodles, peas, rocket, carrot and onions and toss to coat. Serve salad topped with tofu and scattered with nori.

(I keep forgetting to take a pic of mine so this is the one from the Woolies website, where I found this recipe. Mine looks a lot sloppier than this pic, so if yours does too, don't worry.)

Friday 6 May 2016

Oxtail ragu

It's all old-school at Cook Castle NZ today. We're going back to my childhood. My mum regularly made oxtail when we were kids, circa 1968-1981. Her method was to boil the living soul out of it in a pressure cooker and serve it with some mashed spuds and green beans. I remember dad raving on about marrow and heartiness, but when you're 11, food is just that thing you have to abide until such time as you can be "excused".

I've never been brave enough to get a pressure cooker. That's because once, during the time-span nominated above, my mother didn't wait the requisite time period for the pressure cooker to de-pressurise. The result being that whatever she was making exploded across the walls and ceiling of the kitchen, and somehow my brothers and I had to clean it up. Like it was our fault.

It's put me off them for life.

I left home at 18, and this is the first time I've cooked oxtail. So you do the math as to how long it's been between drinks. But the Coles-equivalent over here, New World, had some big fat bits that screamed 1975 and Molly Meldrum and Countdown so I bought them and got straight onto Jamie Oliver, figuring that out of all the chefs I love, he would be the safest bet.

So here's what Jamie and I did with the oxtail. You should do it too.

Serves heaps


This is what oxtail looks like when raw
2 kg oxtails, in chunks
Salt and pepper
Olive oil or rice bran oil
350 ml white wine (thereabouts)
2 carrots, chopped quite small
2 onions, chopped quite small
2 celery stalks, chopped quite small
2 bay leaves (to be honest I used 4)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each, dried sage, dried thyme, dried basil
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tins crushed tomatoes
To serve: Gnocchi, grated parmesan, chopped parsley


Heat oven to about 200.

Heat up your fry pan, season with oxtails with the salt and pepper, and get them really browned off.
This is what my browned oxtail looked like

Pop them into an oven-proof dish. I used the one I make lasagne in because it is massive.

Next, into that lovely messy frypan, pour the wine. Boil it up for a while, then transfer it to a separate dish.

Pour a little oil to the pan and add the vegies, bay leaves, herbs and garic. Stir, stir, stir until it all softens and plays happily.

Pour this mixture over the oxtail, then pour over the wine liquid, then add enough water to pretty much cover the oxtail.

These are my vegies cooking

Cover tightly with alfoil, or if you're using another dish that has a lid, pop on the lid. Into the oven for at least two hours, but if you can stretch it out, make it three.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool so you can handle it, then strip all the meat from the bones. This is a disgusting job but, like making rissoles, it's so much better if you use your hands.

Once you've done that, tip that lovely goodness back into something that can go on the stove, or if you've used a dish that is both oven and stove friendly, skip this step. The liquid should be quite thick but if it's not, tip some of it out and discard, but keep the vegies.

Get it all hot again, then add two tins of tomatoes. Bring it to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the meat and simmer for another 15 or so minutes. You want it to get all thick and rich, like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

Serve on top of gnocchi with sprinkle liberally with grated parmesean, chopped parsley and plenty of salt and pepper. Eat it while you watch "That 70s Show" or "The Six Million Dollar Man".

This is Jamie's pic of his oxtail ragu, from his website

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Salmon, eggplant and goat's cheese stacks

So over here in the Land of the Long White Cloud is not only the world's best Sauvignon Blanc, but also the best hot-smoked salmon. I'm talking big fat oily slices of salmon that have been smoked gently and fragrantly so it falls apart when you smile at it. 

Best part is you can buy top quality smoked salmon in the supermarket which I do when I'm pressed for time. But I prefer to pop out to Petone (for the uneducated like me, it's not pronounced Pet-One, like a pet shop or a Kardashian offspring, but the rather more refined "Pee-Tony" like a pretend Italian). 

John's Fish Market, right on the esplanade, is not much chop inside, but it really does have some gorgeous fresh seafood. I like to buy sashimi salmon from him. When he sees me come in, he pops out to the back fridge, and brings me half a salmon and tells me it was caught just a few hours ago. Totally yum. 

I must admit I miss seeing the acres of green and cooked prawns that I was so accustomed to in Brisbane. But the array of salmon, fish like gurnard and tarahiki, and of course oysters, make up for it. 

We have a fantastic view of Wellington Harbour from our lounge/dining room so it makes sense to have people over, cook something fabulous, open a bottle of something, and enjoy. 

Here's what we did recently. This is from Marie Claire's "Lunch". 

Serves 4


1 big fat purple eggplant
Olive oil, for brushing
Packet of fresh lasagne sheets
1-2 fillets of hot smoked salmon (or trout, I guess)
200g goat's cheese (or one packet)
150g sun-dried tomatoes

For the sauce:
50g butter
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used curly)
1 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons lime juice
ground pepper


Cut the eggplant into thick slices, say 1cm. Lightly brush with olive oil and grill both sides until golden brown.

Cut the lasagne sheets into 12 8cm squares. Cook in batches in a pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain well.

Put one sheet of lasagna on the center of each plate.

Top with a slice of smoked salmon, a slice of eggplant, and a slice (or crumble) of goat cheese.

Top with another sheet of lasagna and layer as before.

Finish with a bit of smoked salmon, a crumble of goat cheese, and a sprinkling of sun-dried tomato.

(It's usually a good idea to drain the sun-dried tomatoes on some paper towels first, it gets rid of a lot of the oil.)

To make the sauce: heat the butter, parsley, stock, lime juice, and some cracked black pepper in a saucepan. Drizzle over the stacks.

You can easily make this for two people by using the same quantity of ingredients and only put out two plates.

Now get yourself some friends and a harbour view. Although it is worth noting that this recipe works just as well when you're on your own and watching tv. Sometimes that's a good enough view too.

Enjoy xo

This is our view. I know.

This is our view at night. I know.