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.