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