Monday, 14 October 2013


Here at Cook Castle, we have been embracing Brisbane's scorching weather and preparing ourselves for the summer onslaught. And as always, it starts with the food. The French provincial foodie of winter gives way to Malibu Tropicana cook-as-much-as-possible-on-the-bbq. So it's good cuts of meat or just-caught fish with some marinade or a spice-rub and tossed onto the heat. 

Our bbq has a gas wok attachment, so I slice up all manner of vegies and toss them about while the meat is cooking. Tonight we had red capsicum, green capsicum, fresh corn cut from the cob, green beans (they were just topped and tailed), broccolini, a handful of baby spinach and another handful of frozen edamame beans (which the manufacturer had thoughtfully taken out of the pod before freezing). When they were cooked, I stirred through some hoisin sauce and sprinkled toasted pine nuts on top. Easy, fab and yummy.

Which got me to thinking about other easy ways to add a bit of zing to vegies. Here's a few suggestions:

  • toss in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
  • sprinkle with fresh herbs like rosemary, coriander or basil
  • mix with a little soy sauce and sesame oil
  • drizzle with a little honey
  • grate a little low-fat cheese over them
  • grill with a spray of olive oil, a few garlic cloves, salt and pepper
  • add a quick splash of Tabasco sauce
  • stir-fry with a little oil and curry powder
  • toast slivered almonds in the oven and sprinkle on top
  • and when all else fails, there's always butter...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Toasted coconut scallops

Alan and I had dinner at our local tavern during the week. They had just revamped their menu,  and Wednesday night was "two for one" so we would have been mad not to go. On the menu was "Toasted coconut, caramelised scallops, avocado and cherry tomato crush". It was sublime, absolute divinity. 

The avo was slightly spiced and mashed roughly, with chopped cherry tomatoes running through it, and these delicate scallops, about 12 in all, were sprinkled about and coated in these crisp coconut crumbs. So of course I had to come home, google it  and make my own. We had it last night and it was heaven. 

Here's the recipe for the scallop part. I'll leave it to you to mash your avo and chop the tomatoes. If it helps, I served the whole thing on baby spinach with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. I wish I had taken a picture.

Serves 2


1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups boiling-hot water
¼ teaspoon cayenne or paprika
½ teaspoon salt
200g sea scallops, no shell or roe
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg lightly whisked
½ cup vegetable oil
lime wedges to serve


Preheat oven to 190⁰C

In a small bowl stir together coconut and water. Drain coconut in a sieve and pat dry.

On a baking sheet spread coconut in one layer and bake in middle of oven until pale golden, about 10-15 minutes. In a bowl stir together coconut, cayenne, and salt.

Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. In two separate shallow bowls have ready flour and lightly beaten egg. Dredge scallops in flour, shaking off excess. Dip each scallop in egg, letting excess drip off, then coat well with coconut.

Heat a skillet over moderate heat, add the oil until it's pretty hot but not smoking and cook scallops until golden and just cooked through, no mor than 45-60 seconds each side.

Drain scallops on paper towels. Stack on top of avo mash, and serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Chocolate self-saucing pudding

It's really almost too far into spring to think about hot desserts but when I read this morning that a cooler change was imminent, I figured this stalwart could survive one more outing. Cooks by itself, really, and all you need to do is make sure you didn't serve a huge main meal, because you need lots of tummy space for this. 

My love and eternal devotion goes to Bill Granger for this. You'll find it in his "Bills' Food" book. 


125g Plain Flour
Pinch of Salt
120g caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
250ml milk - be brave and use full-fat
85g unsalted butter melted
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Double cream or crème fraiche to serve

185g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
250 ml boiling water


Preheat the oven to 180°C

Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder into a bowl.

Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract and mix with beaters until combined.

Pour into four 250 ml (1 cup) greased pudding moulds.

To make the topping, stir the brown sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl to combine, then sprinkle it over the pudding batter.

Pour boiling water carefully over the puddings, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with thick cream. What could be easier!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Zucchini fritters

The best part about zucchini fritters is that they can star at any meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks. You can eat them hot off the frypan with sour cream, or cold out of the fridge with sour cream. I've served them with bacon and poached eggs, with a salad, and with grilled tomatoes and steak. I've made tiny ones and covered them in lemon juice and sour cream, and I've also been known to eat them as they come off the frypan. I seem to mention sour cream a lot here... Remember to really drain the zucchini, I can't stress its importance. 


4-5 zucchini
3 spring onions, peeled and finely sliced
150g feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 medium size eggs
1 cup plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
oil for shallow frying


Grate the zucchini and put it in a colander. Sprinkle salt on top and leave it to drain for 1 hour. This step is super important, you want your zucchini flesh to be as dried-out as possible.

Beat the eggs lightly in a large-ish bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Drain the zucchini well between the palms of your hands and add to the mixture. I sometimes even get some paper towels involved here.

Mix all the ingredients lightly.

Heat a heavy-based frypan, add the oil. When hot, add dollops of the fritter mixture. Be careful not to overcrowd your pan.

Cook about 3 minutes each side, then drain on paper towels. Keep going until all mixture is used.

Serve hot, or stack on a plate with paper towel in between and cover and leave in your fridge until you walk past feeling peckish.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Creamy mushroom and spinach gnocchi

Mondays are bad enough. Mondays when you're hungover to the hilt and desperately need sleep are worse. Today is one of those days. Too much merry-making with friends on the weekend has left me bereft of intelligent thought and enthusiasm. Even for cooking. So tonight, the menu is going to be the quickest pasta in the country. Gnocchi. Because you buy it ready-made and those little suckers are cooked and ready to go in less than a minute. Not even sufficient time to refill your wine glass. Not that there will be any wine consumed in Cook Castle tonight, or for the next 50 years.

When is it Friday? 

Serves 4


Large pack of fresh potato gnocchi (I actually buy the one on the supermarket shelf, not from the fridge section, but up to you)
375g mushrooms thinly sliced (get all sorts of different ones, if you're feeling energetic)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Small carton (300ml) pouring cream
Big handful of baby spinach leaves
⅓ cup (or thereabouts) finely grated parmesan cheese


Boil large saucepan of salted water, and when boiling, drop in the gnocchi. When it floats to the top, strain and keep warm.

Cook mushrooms and garlic in heated oiled large frying pan, stirring, until softened. Add cream and spinach; bring to the boil and reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, until spinach wilts and sauce thickens. Stir in half the cheese. Season to taste.

Add gnocchi to pan, stir gently. Serve gnocchi topped with remaining cheese.

Forget about a salad. It's too hard. Just eat in front of Four Corners. Then get some sleep.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Lemon delicious

It’s been a busy week at Cook Castle. My daughter Jade has returned from her UK/Europe adventure and our good friend Bec is preparing to head to the UK. So we’ve had them staying with us, and each night has been a gastronomic delight, and way too much wine for school nights. Wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Tomorrow night, Alan and I are having a bunch of old-fart friends for dinner, and I’m cooking my grandmother’s secret family recipe – a northern Indian dry vegetable curry with lamb and dahl. If that makes sense. 

I was having a poke around looking for something light and refreshing for dessert and came across these blasts from the past courtesy of the Taste website. There is never a time when lemon delicious isn’t delicious!!

Makes 6


150g unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
⅓ cup lemon juice
1½  cups caster sugar
¾ cup self-raising flour, sifted
1½  cups milk
4 eggs, separated
icing sugar mixture, to serve


Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease six 1 cup-capacity ovenproof dishes.

Place butter, lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar, flour, milk and egg yolks in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Using a metal spoon, fold one-quarter of the egg white into lemon mixture. Gently fold in remaining egg white.

Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Place dishes in a large baking dish. Pour boiling water into baking dish until halfway up sides of small dishes.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and just set. Dust with icing sugar. Serve.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Steak sandwich my way

Everyone has their way of doing a curry, baiting a hook and driving a manual car. And the same can be said for making a steak sandwich. Alan and I had these for lunch today, and they were fantastic. Perfect spring-time Sunday lunch fare. Washed down with a cold beer while sitting out by the pool. Work tomorrow seems a lifetime away.

Now, I split the buns in half and toast them under the griller, then melt cheese on one of them. I think of this as SSS#1 (Steak Sandwich Secret Number One).

SSS#2 is the caramelised onion. Peel about three onions, cut in half, and finely slice. Heat butter and oil in a frypan, and add the onion. When it's really soft, add a tablespoon of brown sugar and a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Cook it up until it caramelises.

SSS#3 is avocado. No need to muck around with it. Simply take the other half of your bun, spread it with fresh mashed avo.

Get minute steak, or schnitzel, and cook in the same frypan as the onion for a minute each side. Less really, if it looks like it is ok.

Drain the steak on paper towel, then place it on top of the avo, add some lettuce mix (ours had spinach, mesculin, carrot and beetroot) and finely sliced tomato (again drained on paper towel) then a dirty great heap of the onion. Salt and pepper, then top with the melted cheese part of the bun.

And open a beer.

Happy Sunday xo

Friday, 13 September 2013

Cosmopolitan ... Carrie's cocktail of choice

Two parts Carrie Bradshaw, one part New York City. This classy cocktail shrieks great taste and girl time. Starting the night with a Cosmopolitan and a pair of heels can pretty much guarantee you a big time. 

They're easy to make at home, just as long as you've got your cocktail shaker and the best ingredients. In fact, it's the best way to ensure you're getting a premium cocktail. The Cosmopolitan has become such a staple on the bar menu these days that it's not uncommon to run across poorly made ones - where the bartender uses far too much cranberry, cheap triple-sec and lime cordial, or (vomit) sour mix. As with anything - chocolate, cars, husbands - always make sure you get the best. 


1½ shots citrus vodka (vodka made with the addition of lemon and other citrus fruits)
½ shot Cointreau
¾ shot cranberry juice
½ shot lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Flamed orange zest


Place all of the ingredients, except for the flamed orange zest, into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
Vigorously shake the mixture for 35 seconds and then fine strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish the drink with the flamed orange zest and then serve immediately.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Edamame - the perfect snack food

My husband and I are huge lovers of Japanese food. Raw fish, raw steak, raw scallops... we are regulars at Portside Sono, and Alan will often pick up some salmon and tuna from the fish market at Mooloolaba for our dinner.

So it makes sense that one of our go-to snacks is edamame. These are green soybeans, which you boil in salted water, and eat by squeezing beans out of pods with your fingers. It's a great appetiser or mid-afternoon snack.I buy them frozen at the various Asian grocery stores around Brisbane. A bag of 500g costs less than $5. Mad if you don't.

All you need to do is boil up lots of lovely water with some salt, add the edamame and boil for five minutes. Drain them into a colander, then tip them onto a dish, sprinkle with sea salt, and eat with your fingers.

It's always handy to have a spare bowl to put the empty pods, and a napkin to keep your fingers fresh.

If you're having them at work, just whack them in the microwave, in a covered dish, on high for a few minutes. Remember to keep the ones you don't use frozen, so they're ready for next time.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Potato bake

Now, what’s not to love here – potatoes, bacon, cheese and a bit of garlic. All rich and saucy. Throws together easily, so when you get home, chuck it on, then go get changed and water the garden and have a glass of wine. Then 10 minutes before it’s ready, throw a few steaks or lamb chops on your griddle pan, and microwave a few handful of mixed frozen vegies, and your Monday night is sorted. Then you can have another wine! Especially if you opt for low fat cream and milk.


2 teaspoons olive oil
4 rashers bacon, chopped
1 small brown onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1.5kg potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (if you’re using washed potatoes, you can leave the skin on – and that cuts your prep time waaaay down)
300ml carton thickened cream
½ cup milk
1½ teaspoons chicken stock powder
½ cup grated tasty cheese - more if you wish
Paprika, to sprinkle on top


Preheat oven to hot, 200C. Lightly grease an 8-cup capacity (25 x 32cm) baking dish.

Heat oil in a large frying pan on high. Sauté bacon, onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes, until onion is tender and bacon is golden.

Layer potatoes and onion mixture alternately in prepared baking dish.

In a large jug, whisk together cream, milk and stock powder. Pour over potatoes. Cover with foil. Bake for one hour, until potato is tender.

Remove foil. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika (the paprika gives good colour as well as taste). Bake a further 15 minutes, uncovered, until cheese has melted and is golden.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Soba noodles with prawns and broccolini

It's Sunday. The good Lord once said it was our day of rest but I think we often do more on a Sunday than any other day of the week. It's like we want to pack in every bit of fun, or finish our list of chores, or watch all the shows that we recorded during the week. So what you need, my friends, is a really simple but tasty dinner. I am a massive fan of the super tasty super quick super healthy food. You can't go wrong with this recipe. It's just when I have wine with it that the health percentage drops ever so slightly. Oh well. Happy Sunday xo 

Serves 4


250g soba noodles (or thereabouts)
1 bunch broccolini, sliced on the diagonal
2 teaspoon oil (sunflower if you have it, otherwise canola is ok)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon mirin
12 cooked, peeled (tails intact) prawns, deveined
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted


Cook the soba noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and refresh under cold water. Set aside.

Blanch the broccolini in a saucepan of boiling, salted water for 2 minutes or until just tender, then drain and refresh. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add the noodles, broccolini, sesame oil, tamari and mirin, tossing everything together well for 2 minutes or until warmed through and combined. Remove from the heat, then toss with the prawns and spring onion.

Divide among plates, scatter with sesame seeds and serve.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Chick pea stew

Super quick, super easy and vego to boot. Tinned chick peas are today's baked beans equivalent, I reckon. They can be eaten hot or cold, added to anything from stuffing and risotto, to salads and soups. Eat whole, blended, crushed - all good. This one is on the table in 20 minutes. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver. 

Serves 4-6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 finely sliced red onion
3 finely sliced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 seeded and finely chopped green chillis to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tins chickpeas drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
250 g cherry tomatoes
100 g baby spinach leaves


Heat a large deep frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and salt.

Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the chickpeas, ¼ cup water, cumin, turmeric and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, or until the water evaporates.

Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to soften.

Remove from the heat, stir through lemon juice and taste for seasoning.

Stir through spinach and serve.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Chicken, avocado and basil sandwiches

I know we're not supposed to eat bread anymore. All that wheat and processing and high carb high sugar content. And that fabulous slogan "The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead". Charming. So, ignore all that when you read on. Because I'm not suggesting you make these sandwiches every day; but a few times a year isn't going to shorten your life expectancy in the way that, say smoking or getting on a Caboolture line train might. 

I once took a plate of these to a baby shower and they were gone in sixty seconds. Then I took them to a work drinks thing and same thing happened. They are so simple, but so yummy, and don't shy away from using butter and avo on the same sandwich. Remember, it's a sandwich, not the Caboolture line.


BBQ chook, shred the meat
Ripe avocado, mashed
Basil dip (see this pic for the one I use, I get it from Woolies)
Butter (I use Lurpak, who doesn't?)
Fresh white bread (yes, white)


If you haven't made a sandwich since 1989, here's what you do.

Get two slices of bread, spread lightly with butter, spread one slice with mashed avocado and the other slice with the dip.

Put some chicken on one slice, not too much, you want the ingredients to share equal billing. There's no star here.

Join the slices together, and cut into three fingers. Not sure why, but three fingers is the best way to eat these. You can cut the crusts off if you a) wish or b) are younger than eight.

Repeat until you're either tired of making sandwiches or you think you've got enough.

Eat immediately.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Lobster with basil gnocchi

Now I'm going to be completely honest here. I've never actually cooked this recipe myself. The reason I'm putting it in this blog is because it might inspire me! I think it looks spectacular! I've never cooked a lobster in my life. Or a crab. And it is probably high-time I did. This gem is courtesy of My Kitchen Rules, I think it was cooked by the two army guys from Townsville. Wasn't one of them married to a Thai lady and he made a green curry with 150 small green chillies and then was perplexed why no one could eat it? Mmmm. Anyway, if you end up giving this one a go, let me know how it goes. Just bear in mind that two of them were cooking this, so you may need to enlist reinforcements xo 

Serves 4


3 tablespoons olive oil
80g butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lobster tails, halved, meat removed and cut into 1cm pieces
8 baby roma tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper, to season
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped parsley, to serve
Salt and pepper, to season

1 tablespoon olive oil
Shells and heads of 12 banana prawns
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
60ml dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoons boiling water
1 litre water
160ml (⅔ cup) thickened cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to season

200g sebago potatoes, chopped
100ml milk
2 ½ tbs butter, melted
55g flour, plus extra, to dust
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped basil
½ tablespoons grated parmesean
Zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper, to season


To make bisque, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add prawn shells and heads and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until oil is bright orange and fragrant. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, for a further 5 minutes or until soft.

Add wine and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in tomato paste, drained saffron and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until stock has reduced by half.

Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a medium saucepan, then return to heat and stir in cream. Simmer for 2 minutes or until heated through, then remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

How do you like your steak cooked Dad?

Fathers Day deserves a blokey food post, and what better blokey food post than a steak. I reckon medium-rare is the best way to cook a steak.  The longer you cook a steak, the tougher and drier it gets. Medium-rare steaks give you the maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness while ensuring that the centre of the steak is actually warm. It also allows the little flecks of fat to melt through the meat, giving the steak that wonderful flavour.

Medium-rare is when the meat is pretty much pink, with a bit of red in the middle. You really want to get some heat inside the meat. You don't want to it look like a good vet could get it back up on its feet in ten minutes.

To cook, the first thing I do is dry the meat out on some paper towels. I heat a griddle pan till it's smoking with just a spray of oil (remember you want to fat inside the meat to do you work for you).

Now the timing is the tricky part. I usually cook my steak three minutes either side to get medium-rare, then of course I rest it wrapped in alfoil for about 8-10 minutes.

But to tell if it's cook, I press the centre of the steak with my finger.

If my finger sinks in and the steak feels soft or mushy, it's not done yet. Give it another minute. If the steak gives just a little bit when pressed and springs right back, that's medium-rare. If it doesn't give at all or feels firm or hard, that's medium or beyond. And therefore beyond rescue.

Serve with caramelised onions (finely chop onions, saute in olive oil and a dob of butter until soft, then add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of brown sugar, and cook for another five minutes).

And a baked potato (scrub the spud under water then stab it 4-5 times with a sharp knife, put in the microwave on a paper towel, cook on high for six minutes, cut roughly in quarters, slop in some sour cream and a finely chopped spring onion).

If you want, toss together spinach leaves, rocket, quartered cherry tomatoes, sliced snow peas and half a chopped avo, sprinkly very lightly with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, and serve on the side.

Happy Fathers Day xo

Friday, 30 August 2013

Great dinner party pre-entree

I don't mind a bit of a dead posh dinner party. I usually make it for eight guests and am partial to a five-course menu. It's a good thing then that I like to cook. Phew. My main is always some hearty number like shanks or a curry, something I can make the day before. Soup features prominently as well.

But before the soup, I like to do something light, like oysters with gin and grapefruit juice and coriander, or a caprese. Usually something that doesn't need cooking. So this one is super fantastic as well. I like anything that looks like fun to eat. This little monster fits right into the category.

Don't be over-fussed by my quantities. Make it up as you go, and as long as it looks good enough so that you'd eat it, then your work is done xo

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tubs of large bocconcini balls, drained and patted dry
1 avocado
1 tub of store-bough char-grilled capsicum
50g rocket
8 slices prosciutto


Place the oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Slice the bocconcini balls in 3 slices. Arrange on plates. Slice the avocado and layer on top of cheese, then top with capsicum, rocket and prosciutto. Have some fun here, and drape the stuff all around each other, maximising the colour.

Drizzle over the dressing and serve.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The perfect boiled egg

As a kid, my mum was fastidious about breakfast. Every school day, my brothers and I feasted on porridge with brown sugar, banana and milk, then a soft-boiled egg with buttery soldiers.

Mum was never a morning person so the eggs were a bit hit and miss. Sometimes they were so runny that we'd wonder if they'd actually made it into the boiling water.

Other times, they were so hard we substituted them when we lost the cricket balls in the backyard.

With the best of intentions, mum would set the timer for four minutes but invariably she'd get talking to the milkman, or she'd have to go and choose a tie for dad, and the eggs would be hard. Or, she'd see the time, panic and literally douse the eggs in boiling water and serve.

My love for soft-boiled eggs has stayed with me throughout adulthood, and in fairness to mum, I've had my share of hit and miss eggs too. I've been out in the laundry looking for my daughter's errant sports shirt, or stuck on the phone with an early morning work call, and it's near disaster.

But... now there's a contraption that makes every single egg be cooked to perfection.

Meet Breville Egg Creations. This weird spaceship-looking device takes out the guess work. Jab a pinprick hole in the fat part of the egg with their special gadget, stick your egg on a holder, add the required amount of water (less for soft-boiled, more for hard-boiled, duh) and press go. Or start.

When the time is up, it emits this terrifying buzzing noise that makes my neighbours call 000. Once I was up in the field behind us jogging and I heard the buzzer. Alan says he was at the IGA getting milk and he heard it. It's loud.

What I then do, which isn't in their instructions, is plunge the eggs into a bowl of iced water as soon as they're done, to instantly stop the cooking process. I act all super organised and get this ready early on. I leave them in that water for 2-3 minutes then peel immediately if I'm replicating a "poached egg" or knock the top off and stick them in an egg cup if I'm doing childhood soldiers.

It's never failed me yet and I think they should be mandatory issue when you get your birth certificate. Mine cost $40 from The Good Guys. The  Breville Egg Creations I mean, not my birth certificate.

I'm not trying to egg you on, but seriously give it a try.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Chilli chicken and almond stir-fry

Sorry it has been so long between posts. I've got some time off work now so I'm going to be posting like a mad French chef who ran out of butter! 

Alan and I had been away to Melbourne and our gorgeous friends Craig and Erica cat-sat our furries. When we picked them up, an offer to stay for dinner was extended. There was also a bottle of red involved. Of course we said yes. Here's what Erica cooked, straight from the Taste website she reports. It was sen-sa-tion-al. One wok, super easy, make lots and take it for lunch. 


3 (about 700g) single chicken breast fillets
60ml (¼ cup) peanut oil
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons sambal oelek
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 4cm lengths
100g green beans, topped, cut into 3cm lengths
125ml (½ cup) chicken stock
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
½ cup firmly packed coarsely chopped fresh coriander
65g (½ cup) toasted slivered almonds
To serve: steamed jasmine rice


Thinly slice chicken. Combine chicken, 1 tablespoon of the oil, soy sauce, sambal oelek, garlic and ginger in a glass or ceramic bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to develop the flavours.

Heat 1 tablespoon of remaining oil in a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add one-third of chicken mixture and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat, in 2 more batches, with remaining chicken mixture, reheating pan between batches.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and heat until just smoking. Add asparagus and beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until bright green. Add chicken, stock and oyster sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle with almonds and coriander, and serve with the rice.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sang Choy Bow

Without question, this is my #1 recipe for Sang Choy Bow. It's one of my favourite foods, but then I like anything you can eat with your hands. Except Subway. The CSIRO take the credit for this gem. It is so much fun to make, and again, a meal where my husband hasn't quite worked out that there's no potatoes. Take leftovers to work for lunch, and toast some multi-grain bread and heap this mixture on. Way to make the office so jealous... go you! 

Serves 4


1 iceberg lettuce
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon corn flour
½ small red chilli, finely sliced
1 egg,beaten
2 tablespoon olive oil
8 shitake mushroom
2 clove garlic,finely sliced
1 x 2cm ginger,julienne
400gm lean pork mince
6 water chestnuts
50gm dried rice noodles,soaked in hot water then roughly chopped.
2-3 tablespoon hoisin sauce
4 spring onions finely sliced
handful bean sprouts


Discard outer leaves of the lettuce and carefully cut whole leaves from lettuce head, trimming them to form cups.

In a bowl mix oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, corn flour, chilli and egg and set aside.

Heat oil in a large fry pan over high heat. Add mushroom, garlic and ginger, and cook stiriing for 1 minute.

Add pork mince and stir to break up any clumps and cook for 8-10 minutes  until brown and cooked. Drain off excess liquid.

Return to pan then add water chestnuts and noodles and cook 4 minutes. Stir oyster sauce mixture then add to pan and cook for 10 minutes until thickened. Allow to cool alittle.

Place lettuce cups on serving plate and spoon meat into them. Drizzle a little hoisin sauce over meat and sprinkle with spring onions and bean sprouts. Serve.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Roasted pumpkin & apple soup

This one is a straight copy and paste from August 2013 delicious. magazine (p97), via Katie Quinn Davies. The key to this one is roasting the pumpkin and apple. I think that we should all be focusing on soups as much as possible, with only a few weeks of winter left to go. The flavour combo in this may sound weird, but I love it. But again, I've also been known to buy a sundae and fries from McDonald's and dunk the fries in the sundae and eat them. So perhaps I'm not the one to judge? 

Serves 4


1kg pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 3cm pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 teaspoons chopped sage leaves
70ml olive oil
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 3cm pieces
250g chopped bacon rashers
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1¼ litres (or 5 cups) chicken stock
120g goats cheese
To serve: pepitas (pumpkin seeds) lightly toasted


Preheat your oven to 180⁰C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the pumpkin, cumin, sage and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large bowl and season, then toss to combine. Tip onto the tray, arrange in a single layer and roast fro 10-15 minutes. Add apple and cook for a further 10 minutes or until tender.

While all that is doing its thing, heat another 2 teaspoons of oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Add baconand cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden. You don't have to use oil for this part if you don't want to, the bacon will generate its own oil once it heats. Tip the bacon onto some paper towels.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Chocolate fudge for Ekka Wednesday

With the Ekka holiday today and all, it seems not just appropriate but also essential to have a recipe about sugary fun stuff that reeks of sideshow alley, fireworks and bulls. If you're a grown-up, add a splash of Baileys or Grand Marnier and make like you're in the Stockman's Bar. Sort of.  


2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1½ tablespoons cocoa
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of salt


Put all ingredients in a saucepan and stir until boiling. Boil gently for about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and beat hard with a wooden spoon until mixture is creamy.

Carefully pour the mixture into a greased and lined 16cm-square tin and smooth over with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

Remove from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into squares as big or as little as you like. Wrap them in baking paper with kitchen tie and you've got a perfect mini show bag!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Avocado dip

It's just so simple, so yummy, and always a crowd pleaser. Avocados seem to be in plentiful supply at the moment so grab a few and start mashing. Here's a tip - if you want to make your avos ripen more quickly, store them next to a banana.

Serve with toasted pita bread chips or corn chips. And some cold white wine. It may be a pre-dinner snack but could end up being your dinner! If you're anything like me, you'll also put a dollop of sour cream on top. And why not! 


3 medium avocados, chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Chopped fresh coriander leaves, to serve


Place avocado in a bowl. Mash with a fork until almost smooth. Add onion, lemon juice and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Top with coriander. Serve immediately.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Nigella's cold soba noodles

Poor bloody Nigella. Not only was she throttled by her hubby in full public view, she now has to contend with his whinging suicide rants. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but for Nigella, I think the way to a man's heart is a 9-inch blade through the breast plate. As long as she doesn't give up the kitchen. So to honour the challenges she's facing at the moment, here's one of my favourite Nigella recipes. If her idiot husband keeps up his antics, there'll no doubt be more Nigella right here. Let's wait and see...

Makes 2 good servings, or 4 as part of a meal


75 grams sesame seeds
250 grams soba noodles
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
5 spring onions


Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a high heat until they look golden brown, and tip them into a bowl to cool.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt. Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 3 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are tender but not mushy.

Drain them then throw them in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process.

In the bowl you are going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil. Then finely slice the spring onions and put them into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame seed noodles for about half an hour to let the flavours develop, although this is not absolutely necessary or sometimes even possible.

Make a double batch and keep them in your fridge for seconds, or lunch the next day. You can serve them with a grilled fillet of salmon with a lemon wedge, or some gourmet sausages, and a handful of rocket with an olive oil dressing.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Silver beet, pea and pancetta soup

When my Dad turned 80 a few months ago, I hosted a lunch for him and 30 of his friends. I think it is kinda cool to fill a room with 30 friends when you're 80! Everyone commented rather drolly that it was so nice to get together for a birthday rather than a funeral. When you're cooking for a crowd this big, you have to be smart with food choices. When you're cooking for a crowd this big and this old, you have to be extra smart with food choices. Soup, of course, is a no-brainer. Ths one is a regular of mine, assembles in seconds, tastes really good and the green colour against a white soup bowl is mesmerising. 

Try and cook it before your Dad turns 80. 

Serves 4


1 teaspoon vegetable oil
8 slices pancetta (or prosciutto) chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 bunch silver beet, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 cups frozen peas
½ cup pouring cream (more or less to your liking)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
cracked black pepper
To serve: lemon slice, goats curd,chopped chives, bread roll/sourdough


Put the oil, pancetta and onion in a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook for three minutes or until soft. Add the stock, increase the heat, cover and bring to the boil.

Add the silver beet and peas, and cook for about 4 minutes or until tender.

Take the saucepan off the heat, let it cool for about 5 minutes, then get out your stick blender, and whiz away until it is smooth. Add cream, black pepper and lemon juice and stir.

Pour into bowls, top with lemon, goats curd, chives, a quick grind of black pepper if it takes your fancy and pop the bread on the side.

Thanks to Donna Hay for this one. It's from her book "Simple Essentials - Salad + Vegetables"

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cheesey rocket scones for breakfast

Annabel Langbein is the first and last word on growing your own produce and using it to create gorgeous food. Well, maybe her, and Maggie Beer and Jamie Oliver. And a whole bunch of other chefs. But she does it with a touch of NZ glamour. It all looks so easy, and it makes me want to rush out and cultivate our back yard with tomatoes and broad beans and silver beet. Then I forget that I work 50 hours a week and by the time I account for sleeping and drinking wine, there's not much time left for growing my own gear. So the herb pots and the weekend farmers' markets will have to suffice. For now. 

These scones are one of Annabel's suggestions for breakfast. Obviously, if you're anything like me, it will be breakfast on the weekend because of time, but serve with sour cream, chutney and a great pile of crispy bacon. Get the papers, a mug of coffee and sit in the sun. Weekend chores can wait. 

Makes 12-16


4 cups self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper or half a teaspoon of paprika (up to you)
3 handfuls (75g) rocket leaves, finely chopped
200g tasty cheese, grated
1 cup chilled cream
1 cup chilled soda water
To serve: sour cream, chutney, bacon, coffee, papers, sunshine


Preheat oven to 200ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Mix in chopped rocket and cheese.

In a separate bowl or jug combine the cream and soda water. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Mix with a knife until just combined.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface (this usually means a clean kitchen bench) and pat into a rough rectangle about 4cm thick. Cut into 12-16 pieces and place on prepared baking tray. Bake until scones are puffed and golden and they bounce back when pressed (about 15-18 minutes).

Serve while they're still warm. You can freeze whatever you don't use.

Happy Saturday xo

Friday, 9 August 2013

Chilli con carne

Brisbane, it's Ekka time. The reason I know this has nothing to do with ferris wheels and fairy floss. It is because the cold westerlies have started and turned George Street into a wind tunnel. So instead of complaining and putting on another jacket, get to the market and grab freshly ground mince and spices, and a hearty bottle of Shiraz, and cook this Mexican favourite. It's going to be summer shortly so let's make the most of these spicy hot meals!

Serves 4


1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 heaped teaspoon hot chilli powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
500g minced beef
1 beef stock cube
400g can chopped tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Cooked rice, corn chips, coriander sprigs and sour cream, to serve


Put oil in a heavy based pan, and heat on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about five minutes, or until the onions are soft and slightly translucent.

Add in the garlic, capsicum, chilli powder, paprika and cumin. Cook for a few minutes. It should start to smell pretty good.

Turn up the heat, and add the minced beef. Break up the beef with a wooden spoon. The mince should start turning brown, and it should sizzle a bit. Keep stirring and prodding for at least five minutes. There should be no pink bits. Remember, you want the mince to fry, not stew, so keep the heat up.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Grilled lamb and eggplant with feta and mint

I don't mind a bit of Donna Hay. There's divided opinion as to whether she is a chef or a cook. So what. She's got some really great recipes that are simple, usually pretty tasty, and have lots of fun things like mint and chilli. Not everyone wants to be Matt Moran. Not that there's anything wrong with that. This one is super tasty, light on carbs and looks a treat on the plate. Always important. Donna calls for lamb backstraps but I usually use a rolled boneless lamb which I roast in the oven, rest and slice. Don't fuss too much on measuring the herbs. Buy your usual bunch and then shove them around until it looks ok. 

Serves 4


good slug of olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
500g of lamb backstraps
2 eggplants sliced
1½ cups mint leaves
½ cup dill sprigs
150g feta, crumbled (I use Danish)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh please!)
1 teaspoon honey


Combine the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and a good sprinkling of sea salt and cracked black pepper, and brush over the lamb and eggplant.

Cook on a hot char-grill or bbq plate (because it looks nicer) or on your regular frypan, for 3-4 minutes each side, until the eggplant is dark and tender, and the lamb is cooked to your liking, perhaps a little pink.

Thickly slice the lamb and divide between the plates, top with eggplant, then top with mint, dill and feta.

Combine the lemon juice and honey and spoon over. If you're serving this to your husband, keep quiet about there being no potatoes. I've served this meal to mine about five times and he still hasn't cottoned on.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Cocktail hour :: Margaritas

What's not to love about this cocktail classic! It's almost the perfect cocktail, its icy freshness mixing with the saltiness on the glass rim, so you feel nothing but glamorous, even if you're making them in your pjs at home while watching repeats of Grey's Anatomy. Don't save them up for summer. Or Friday nights. Tuesday is always good for Margaritas. Ole! 


Tequila (I use silver)
Cointreau (I've been told triple sec can also be used but why would you bother)
Fresh lemon juice (or lime juice, or a mix of the two)
Lime wedge for garnish
Salt or sugar to rim the glass (I prefer salt)
Martini glass, which has been chilled in the freezer


It's not about quantity so much with cocktail making, moreso ratio. With Margaritas, it's 2:1:1, so that means for every two shots of tequila, you need one shot each of Cointreau and juice.

Pour into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake really really well. Try to be cool about, think Tom Cruise from that movie (see clip below).

Cut a slit in the lemon or lime that you just juiced, and run it around the rim of your martini glass. Pour some salt (or sugar) onto a shallow dish, invert your glass and jiggle it about in the salt or sugar until the rim is coated.

Using your cocktail strainer, pour the contents into the glass, add a lime wedge garnish and say cheers. Make sure you have enough for a second. The first one doesn't last long xo

Monday, 5 August 2013

Chick pea dip with a lemon twist

I'm not a fan of hummus/hommos but love chick peas. So here's my twist on that classic dip. Serve and/or use whenever you might use hummus/hommos. Sometimes it's all I have for lunch. 


400g canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained, discard the loose skins
Olive oil
½ cup natural set yoghurt
Bunch coriander, finely chopped (stems included)
Rind of one lemon, plus juice
Salt and cracked black pepper
Pita bread


Place chickpeas in a food processor or blender with 1 tablespoon warm water and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, pour olive oil in a thin, steady stream and process until smooth. You'll need around 3 tablespoons but use your own judgement.

Remove chickpea mixture from the processor, put in a bowl and fold through yoghurt, coriander, salt and cracked black pepper. Mix until well combined. Add the lemon rind and juice a bit at a time, tasting as you go to get the right flavour.

Heat your oven to about 170⁰C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Roughly tear the pita bread into 5cm pieces and spread them in a single layer on the tray. Bake in the oven for around 5 minutes, or untl toasted to your liking. Cool.

Serve dip drizzled with a little olive oil with toasted pita bread.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Steak with red onion, goats cheese and pumpkin

This one is fun to make, looks amazing on the plate and tastes a treat. It looks like it's got a lot going on, but just get all your food prepped before you start, and it assembles with ease. I sear my steaks on a griddle then wrap them in foil and roast for eight minutes to medium-rare but cooking them on the frypan is totally ok too. Use the best quality meat you can find/afford. You'll be pleased you did. 

Serves 2


2 x 160g scotch fillet steaks
3 red onions
200g Japanese pumpkin
100g goats cheese, crumbled
100g rocket
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
Sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100g pine nuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 175ºC. Peel onions, halve and cut into 2cm wedges and place in small baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil and roast for 1 hour. Remove foil and finish in oven for 10 minutes.

Leave the skin on the pumpkin and cut into 5cm-thick wedges, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and sprinkle the garlic and fresh herbs on top.

Heat large frypan, drizzle with oil, cook steaks for 3-5 minutes, to your liking, and set aside to rest.

Whisk remaining vinegar, mustard and oil to make dressing. To serve, toss rocket with the dressing. Place steak on plates and stack with pumpkin and onions. Top with rocket, sprinkle over goats cheese and pine nuts.

Pour two hefty glasses of shiraz, and you're done!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Seafood stew (from Bill Granger)

If I was single, I would want to be married to Bill Granger. Instead, I have to love him from behind a cloak of books and DVDs. I love his attitude to food - straight-forward techniques, lots of fresh flavour and don't be afraid to simplify. Each of his cook books takes me on a wonderland tour. Here's another of my favourite Bill recipes, from Sydney Food. Don't go easy on the garlic here, crush it and add it in baby!! 

Serves 4


Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chili, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
½ cup white wine
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
3-4 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest
400g of good quality marinara mix, or use selection of mussels, green prawns and scallops
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
finely chopped parsley to sprinkle


Heat olive oil in a large deep frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and chilli and cook one minute longer.

Add the parsley and stir for 20 seconds, then add wine and bring to the boil. Add canned and fresh tomatoes and the zest. Reduce to low heat and cook for 25 minutes.

Add seafood, stir and turn the heat up to medium to medium-high and cover the pan. Remove from the heat and let the seafood cook itself.

Spoon immediately into lovely shallow bowls and sprinkle with parsley, and a good whack of salt and pepper. If I'm feeling energetic, I serve it spooned over couscous. Up to you.

Here's a pic, I scanned it from Page 161 in my copy of "Sydney Food". As you can tell, I'm not very good at scanning.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Caramel oat slice

OK, now don't be fooled by this recipe's title. Just because it says oats (which I am led to believe are a superfood) doesn't make it healthy or good for you. But by crikey it tastes good, and by that I mean really really good. So good, you sneak into the kitchen when no one is looking and take a slice. So good, you can stand over the sink and shove it in and then go eat more. Just have a salad for dinner. For two nights in a row. 


125g butter
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1 cup shredded coconut

60g butter
1 can condensed milk (410g)
2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup rolled oats
60g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup


Base: cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Add sifted flour and cocnut and mix well. Press evenly into a greased lamington tin. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes, remove and cool.

Filling: place all ingredients in a saucepan, and stir over low heat until butter melts. Increase heat, simmer gently, stirring all the time for about five minutes or until the mixture turns a lovely golden brown colour. Remove from heat and spread over the base.

Topping: combine coconut and rolled oats in a bowl. Put butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan, stir over a low heat until the butter has melted. Add to the coconut mixture and mix well. You might get a better result if you use your fingers here. Might help to take your rings off. Sprinkle the topping over the caramel filling.

Return the whole thing to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes on a moderate heat until golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing. Eat salad the next day.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Audrey's Kitchen

It's like Nigella meets Dawn French. In an Australian kitchen. It's produced by Working Dog, so, I guess, you're not dreamin'. Catch snippets of Audrey on the ABC

Monday, 29 July 2013

Mustard dill pikelets with smoked trout and avocado salad

I make these little cuties when I'm going to a picnic. I take the pikelets and the avocado/trout bit separately and assemble it while I'm sitting on the grass. I also make them when Alan and I have lunch by our pool (with an ice-cold bottle of Pinot Grigio). The recipe says creme fraiche but I use sour cream. 

I usually get 12-15 pikelets from this quantity. Depends on how big you make them.


1cup (150g) self-raising flour
1 egg
1 tbs wholegrain mustard
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
2 tbs chopped dill
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
400g smoked ocean trout fillet, skin removed, coarsely flaked
2 small ripe avocados, halved, stoned, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 cups watercress sprigs
Creme fraiche, to serve


Firstly, make the pikelets. Sift the flour into a medium bowl and make a well in the centre. Whisk the egg, mustard, buttermilk and half the dill in a small jug. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually add egg mixture to flour and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Combine the lemon juice, oil and remaining dill in a small jug. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the trout, avocado and watercress in a medium bowl and set aside.

Spray a medium non-stick frying pan with cooking spray or lightly oil and place over medium heat. Drop about ¼ cup measures of the batter into pan, allowing room for spreading. Cook for 20 seconds or until bubbles appear on the surface and base is golden - like you do for regular 1970s pikelets.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Chicken with fennel and orange

This is so yummy and so easy to make. It's from one of those Women's Weekly cookbooks. The fennel is aromatic and the orange gives it a real zing. Best bit is you only need one pot. Cheers to not washing up! 

Serves 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter
12 chicken drumsticks
4 baby fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
1 onion, chopped finely
2 gloves garlic, crushed
1 tableshoop finely grated orange rind
1 cup orange juice
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed


Heat oil and butter in a large deep pot and then cook the chicken in batches. Make sure it's well browned. Remove the chicken. Discard all but one tablespoon of the pan drippings. Reheat the pot
and cook the fennel until it is brown and caramelised. Remove the fennel.

Cook onion and garlic in the same pan, stirring, until onion softens. Return chicken and fennel to the pan with the rind, juice, wine,  stock and thyme. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Add the sweet potato, and leave the lid off. Cook for about another 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender.

Discard the thyme and serve. It's great on its own, or you can serve it with fettuccine or tagliatelle.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Potato and anchovy chowder with garlic prawns

When I first read this recipe (in a little book called "Whizz It") I was excited. I can eat anchovies from the jar. Love 'em. But I know they can be polarising. When I cook this soup for friends, I don't tell them what it is until they finish. The usual reaction is, "What? Anchovies? I hate them!" This is said as they look at their empty bowl. Needless to say, this is a firm favourite. Note, however, I usually double the anchovy quantity. It's up to you.

Serves 4


2 garlic cloves
1 red chilli, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
16 green prawns, peeled

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 bacon rashers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
80g (one jar) of anchovies, drained on paper towel
1 carrot
3 biggish potatoes, peeled and chopped
375ml of chicken stock
250ml milk (use full-fat)
125 pouring cream (not thickened)
some extra chopped parsley for sprinkling on top


To make the garlic prawns, put the garlic, chilli and parlsey in a mortar and pestle and grind away, then add the olive oil until it makes a paste. Transfer to a bowl, add the prawns and toss to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Let's marinade something

I pulled these marinades from, wait for it, the Weight Watchers website a while back. Super tasty, speedy, use
them to marinate or stir fry your vegies. 

Chilli and honey
Makes: ⅓ cup
Delicious with pork. Combine 1 chopped fresh red birdseye chilli, 2 tbs honey, ¼ cup fresh lime juice and 2 tsp grated fresh ginger.

Indian spice mix
Makes: ⅓ cup
Great on lamb, beef or chicken. Combine 2 tbs ground cumin, 2 tbs ground coriander, 1 tbs ground fennel, 2 tsp garam masala and 2 tsp ground chilli in an airtight container.

Lemon wasabi
Makes: ¼ cup
Try this marinade on prawns, fish or chicken. Combine 2 tbs fresh lemon juice, 1 tbs wasabi paste, 1 tbs fish sauce and 1 tsp sesame oil.

Minted yoghurt
Makes: ¾ cup
Will tenderise and add flavour to lamb, prawns or chicken. Combine 1 crushed garlic clove, 200g no-fat yoghurt and ¼ cup chopped fresh mint.

Rice vinegar and soy
Makes: ⅓ cup
A good match with tuna. Combine 2 tbs rice vinegar, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and 2 tbs chopped fresh dill.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Fig bircher muesli

Breakfast being the most important meal of the day, blah blah blah... but sometimes we run late, we can't be bothered or we forget.
Make this little bircher number the night before and your morning is glorious! 


2 ½ cups natural muesli
1 ½ cups apple juice
1 cup reduced-fat plain yoghurt
¾ cup reduced-fat milk
¾ cup chopped dried figs
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
3 fresh figs, quartered


Combine muesli, apple juice, yoghurt, milk, dried figs and honey in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Spoon muesli mixture into bowls. Sprinkle with nuts. Top with fresh figs. Serve.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Noreen's sauce for chicken

Noreen was my step-mother-in-law from my first marriage. Confused much? Don't be. She is the most remarkable woman; generous, warm, motherly and a hug that went on forever. When you were with Noreen, nothing else mattered except that you were loved. She didn't judge, she didn't ask, she just loved. When that marriage ended, I would gladly have given up the house to keep her. As things go, I didn't get to keep her but her legacy remains with this amazing sauce. She made it for me one night at her home on Lake Munmorah, NSW. She roasted a chicken in her frypan and, dispensing with routine gravy, chose instead to pour this sweet dark brown syrup over it. I was hooked. I first made it in 1987, and it is full of 1980s ingredients. So as not to lose it, I hand-wrote it in the cover of my Common Sense Cookery Book. 

I also use it on meatballs, hamburgers and I usually lick the spoon. PS when I say "a dirty great dollop of butter" I'm not trying to be funny.

2 tablespoons of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
a dirty great dollop of butter

Put everything in a saucepan and heat slowly. Serve immediately. When I'm feeling lazy, I've been known to microwave it, but keep that between you and me.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Bacon, leek and gruyère tart with roasted tomatoes and rocket

Oh goodness but how I love the show My Kitchen Rules. There are a myriad of cooking shows on TV, Foxtel, DVD and iTunes, and none of them interest me. Just this one. I'll post my favourite recipes from all the seasons over time, but this one is simple for a Tuesday night, especially when one has been up all night waiting for a royal baby to be born! Or for breakfast... 


1 sheet puff pastry
8 cherry truss tomatoes
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
Dressed rocket leaves, to serve

40g butter
1 leek, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to season
4 rashers rindless bacon, chopped
150g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 eggs
120ml cream
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
40g Gruyère, grated


Preheat oven to 200C. Grease the base and sides of a 30cm x 15cm loose-based flan tin, then line with pastry. Line with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Cook for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove baking weights or rice and set aside to cool. Reduce oven to 180C.

To make tart filling, melt half the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add leek and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer leek to a plate and set aside.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Mixed bean & pancetta soup

It never seems to get that cold during winter here in Brisbane that we need to immerse ourselves in perfecting the art of hearty fare. But regardless, even when the temperature drops below 12C, we like to think its snowing outside, the fire is lit and the soup is hearty. Today's top temp, by the way? 19C. That's how winter rolls in BrisVegas.  


Olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, ends trimmed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
100g pancetta, finely chopped
1 x 400g can low-salt diced tomatoes
750ml (3 cups) water
1 x 400g can four bean mix, rinsed, drained
100g baby spinach leaves
2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind


Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crisp.

Add tomato and water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add beans and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Add baby spinach and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Season with pepper.

Combine the parsley and lemon rind in a bowl. Ladle soup among serving bowls. Top with the parsley mixture to serve.