Friday, December 21, 2012

Fork to fork, garden to gob, or how I dug up my dinner

Below is the basis of last nights dinner, which had been dug from the garden not thirty minutes earlier. 

Creating, tending to, and reaping the benefits from our vegie garden has been so satisfying, and even therapeutic this year.  Doubly so, as it has actually been successful.  While it looks like a jungle, there is some kind of order, and (almost) everything appears to be thriving.  

We know that amongst the tangle of leaves, and lettuce and herbs that have bolted, heirloom tomatoes lurk; ripening slowly.

We know that if we brave the thorns of the raspberry canes, the rewards are there, multiplying every day. 

We also now know how corn grows.  What we mistakenly thought were the beginnings of corn, were actually the seeds.  

We now see where the corn is!

So the garden has also taught us a lot.  Who knew that seed potatoes would sprout and produce beautiful offspring, after being barely buried in the soil and covered in pea straw?  

Not me, although I did know once the plants above the ground started dying off, these dutch cream spuds were destined to become crunchy on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside, delicious chips!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Gingerbread House v3.2

This years gingerbread house.... I have to admit, this is actually Mk II.  The first one ended up basically flat after the royal icing didn't set properly!  After some quick googling, I found out that royal icing was more finicky that I had thought.  It has worked flawlessly for the last two years, however I think the weather was too humid yesterday.  This one is still standing - for now!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mexican Bean Wraps

I love this meal because it has all that great mexican flavour, however it is also quick, cheap, and the beans also make a great meal for the babies. 

Mexican Bean Wraps

2 onions finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teapsoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tin tomatoes
Approx 1 cup of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Gently fry the onions and garlic in a large frypan with some oil.  Once the onion has softened and is translucent, add the spices and cook gently for a few more minutes.  Add the beans and tomato, and enough stock to cover.  Simmer until the beans are softened and cooked through.  To make the mixture a little thicker, and suitable for wraps without spilling out and burning your hands, I stick the bamix into the pan and whizz around a third of the bean mix into a puree, then stir this back through the rest of the beans to thicken.  

We like these in wraps, with sour cream, crispy lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, fresh red chilli and cheese.  Not what you would call authentic by any means, but delicious nonetheless.  If you are after a recipe for tortillas, click here.  This recipe also works well if you don't have the maize/corn flour.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ahhh November...

.... Christmas is coming....  That time of year when I have to explain to confused butchers why I need suet.  I am hanging out for fruit mince pies!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Death Cake

This cake is named as such simply because it contains copious amounts of cream cheese, cream, snickers, butter, and chocolate biscuits.  Adapted from this recipe.  Scroll down, then drool!

From our garden, to the table

Beetroot, salad leaves, and thyme from our garden, turned into a delicious salad.....

This is such a simple salad.  Some roast beetroot, sliced into segments, and cubed roasted pumpkin, on top of salad leaves.  Dress this with red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt, then top with fetta and toasted walnuts.  Yum!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Roasted red capsicum pesto

After searching three supermarkets and delis for a pesto I had on the weekend, I succumbed and decided it was time to make one myself.  Ridiculously enough, I could have made the pesto in the time it took to search one supermarket!  Also, this was I know what's going into it - no sugar, no..t too much salt... Enjoy!

Roasted Red Capsicum Pesto

These quantities were all a bit of an educated guess, but it seemed to work well.  A few things however - you may need to loosen it up with either a dash more oil, or even a tiny amount of hot water.  I added a little more lemon juice to good effect.  I also realised after checking an actual recipe that I probably should have toasted the nuts for a little more flavour.  

50g cashews
30g pinenuts
50g sun-dried tomatoes
80g roasted red capsicum (I used some preserved in a jar as I was in a rush, I just rinsed off the liquid)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp finely chopped basil
1 tsp paprika
25g parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a small food processor, and process until all the large chunks have broken down.  Add the oil, and combine briefly until a smoothish paste is formed.  Add more oil if neccessary.  

Another thing you could add would be some red chilli, for a little kick!

We made use of the pesto, and some leftover sausages for dinner last night, simply stirred through some fusilli, zucchini, mushrooms, fennel, and chilli - it was delicious!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the letterbox this week

Hot on the heels of Adriano Zumbo's packet macaron and brownie cake mixes, the Willy Wonka-esque genius, Heston Blumenthal appears to have released his own packet mixes just in time for Christmas   I spotted these in the Coles catalogue today:

I find it hard to believe you could get the same delight combining some ingredients from a box to create one of his amazing creations, compared to the feeling of accomplishment you would get from hunting down all the ingredients and making it from scratch.  I mean, that's the fun part isn't it?  Surprisingly I haven't seen any premix boxes with the Jamie Oliver name on it, which is interesting seeing as his name is plastered on everything from mixing bowls, to lounge suites.  Okay, lounge suites is a stretch, but you get the point.  

I also spotted the gem below in the Aldi catalogue, a pre-boned, pre-stuffed, pre-rolled, and generally pre-fabricated example of that wonderful poultry trilogy - the turducken!  For the un-initiated, it's traditionally a stuffed chicken, inside a duck, inside a turkey.  Click here to see a pic one under construction my clever Mum made a few years ago.  Not the prettiest thing when raw, however once cooked in a woodfired oven it was delicious.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

My favourite animal....

.... is a pig, whole, on the spit.  Especially when cooked slowly over a hickory branch fire.  If you want to see an example of the delicious animal in question (which I was lucky enough to enjoy on the weekend), with crisp, glass-like crackling, click here - vegetarians beware!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

8 signs you're officially a food nerd

I'm pretty sure I can tick 7 of these 8.... it's kind of sad really!

8 Signs you're officially a food nerd via Zagat

A serious food nerd (Photo via

While you're at it, these burgers are making me hungry this morning.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Update: Salted caramel brownies

I am fairly sure that this is the first time in the history of this blog I have posted twice about the same recipe.  Once you have tried the brownies however, I am fairly sure you will forgive me.  You could probably make them any number of ways by combining the base brownie recipe with any sort of gooey deliciousness - I have listed only two ideas.

The date on the original post was June 2010, which was obviously the culmination of years and years of selfless and relentless research Kara and myself put ourselves through.  You see we were trying to hunt down that rare beast - the elusive, perfect brownie recipe.  Finally, wading through the jungle of the internet, we laid our eyes upon an outpost ran by David Lebovitz - an american pastry chef living in Paris.  You can read about his recipes and adventures here.  He has since become one of my favourite chefs - not only a published expert in the crucial areas of icecream, pastries, and bread, but also able to mix it up with the best chefs in any other culinary area.

The recipe which I will link to below uses a filling/additive in the brownie of dulce de leche.  For the un-initiated, get thee to the nearest South American/Spanish deli (Casa Iberica?) and initiate yourself, quickly.  We did make it once, however it was a long three hours of stirring gently simmering milk, and I'm not sure if I can be bothered making it again.  You can also make it yourself by boiling cans of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot of water - if you want to take that risk, go for it.  Anyway, you don't need to worry with this recipe as I have used salted caramel instead.  You can make this yourself quite easily (and safely).

Brownie recipe - click here
Salted caramel recipe - click here - The recipe is about half way down the page

Substitute salted caramel for dulce de leche, and voila!  It's ok, no need to thank us for all the hard work and testing involved in hunting down these perfect brownies.

Swiss Army Knife Meatballs

'That's a strange name for a dish', I hear you saying.  Indeed, however it could just have easily been called 'Macgyver meatballs' or.... I could go on, but I won't.  The reason they are named as such, is because this recipe has many uses.  For those without children, it makes a delicious hamburger mix.  For those with children, not only does it make a delicious hamburger, it can also masquerade as meatballs with napoli sauce, sweet potato burgers, or cheat's ravioli for the kids.  

Kids meatballs and pasta

It's handy to have a kilogram or so of this portioned up in the freezer to make any of the above meals at a moments notice. 

Hamburger Mix/Swiss Army Knife Meatballs

1 kg chuck steak, minced or 1kg regular mince from the supermarket (I prefer to buy chuck and mince it myself, that way I know exactly what's going into the burgers)
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely grated
2 zucchinis, finely grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato relish or sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 tbsp finely chopped mixed herbs (I use parsley and thyme)
1 egg
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

In a frying pan, gently saute the onion, carrot, zucchini, and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil.  Allow to cool once the onion is soft.

Mix together (go on, use your hands) in a large bowl.  For hamburgers, form into patties, cover, and chill in the fridge before cooking so they will hold their shape better.

Now's the time you can reach for that army knife.  I'll outline each possibility briefly below.

Cheat's Ravioli

You know those ready made wonton wrappers available at Asian grocers (and sometimes the major supermarkets) - they make quick and easy cheat's ravioli.  I'm sorry if this offends anyone's Italian food sensibilities, but for the kids it saves a lot of time and mess.  

Lay however many wrappers you need out on the bench, slightly separated.  Place a teaspoon sized, and shaped ball of the hamburger mixture slightly towards one corner of each wrapper.  Have a small container of water nearby, dip your finger in, and run it down two adjoining sides of each wrapper.  Fold the wrappers over so the two dry sides meet the two wet sides, and press together.  

You can now steam these in a bamboo steamer basket for approximately five minutes, or until cooked through.  Make sure you leave space between them or they will stick.  (You could boil them instead).  

You can actually freeze these, and defrost for a quick dinner.  Place the ravioli on an oven tray, ensuring they are not touching each other, and place in the freezer.  Freeze until solid, and then place in a plastic bag.  

Frozen cheats ravioli

You can defrost them quickly, throw some onion, carrot, zucchini and garlic into a fry pan and soften, add a few ravioli, then add some tomato passata or tinned tomatoes to make an extremely quick ravioli in napoli sauce.  Not very authentic, but full of flavour and vegies for the kids.  Next up...

Sweet Potato Burgers

Self-explanatory really.  The sole purpose of these is to add even more vegetable content to the meal, and to make it easy for kids to eat with their hands.  

Just peel and cube a small sweet potato, boil until soft (as for mashed potato). Drain, mash, and allow to cool.  Once cool, stir into around 200g of hamburger mixture.  You may need to add a handful of breadcrumbs if the mixture becomes too wet, and won't form into balls.  Cook as you would a regular hamburger.  Finally...

Meatballs and pasta

Very simple once again - you can use the same mix again for very simple meatballs with pasta.  Simply roll up the meatballs using around a teaspoon of mixture, and fry gently until cooked through.  Serve with pasta or rice, and sauce of your choice.  

Hamburgers (For big kids!)

I'm not going to tell you how to do it, but I will tell you my rules - 

  1. The burger must be cooked medium rare, just like a steak
  2. Condiments such as aioli, must be on the bottom half of the bun, topped with your green (lettuce/roquette/spinach) ingredients.  This 'glues' it all in place!
  3. Tomato next, then the meat
  4. The cheese must go in-between the hot ingredients ie. meat, cheese, then bacon.  This allows the cheese to melt more!
  5. If you're not going to put bacon in, don't bother!
Burger example (note: has been constructed upside down, and has the added bonuses of egg, and caramelised onion)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Our staple weekend breakfast

If you're going to adhere to the old adage regarding getting enough fruit and vegetables in the diet, what better food to pair with a meat product than one that actually resembles meat itself.  Of course I'm talking about the mushroom - rich in flavour, with a soft texture, not unlike meat.  Before you say 'hang on, a mushroom isn't a fruit or a vegetable' - I know, I know, it's a member of the funghi family.  However I doubt anyone is going to argue with the health benefits obtained from eating mushrooms. 

Putting the vegetable/fruit/funghi issue aside, there's something I love about eating mushrooms for breakfast.  They fill you up, they're good for you, and they go so well with everything in the savoury breakfast food world.  Especially well with chorizo, thyme, and garlic anyway.

When I first whipped this up for breakfast one morning, we enjoyed it that much we had it for dinner that evening.  It has definitely been a weekend breakfast standard for around six months now.  You have been warned.

Chorizo and mushrooms on sourdough
Serves 2

1 chorizo, sliced on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, sliced very thinly
1 whole garlic clove, peeled and squashed with the palm of your hand
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
Sourdough bread, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley leaves
2 big handfuls of mixed mushrooms, sliced.  Portobello, swiss brown, button, porcini - take your pick. 

Place a frying pan over medium heat and add half the oil.  When hot, add the chorizo and cook for around 2 minutes each side.  Add the garlic, mushroom and thyme, drizzle with the remaining oil, and stir to coat.  Cook for around five minutes or until the mushrooms are nearly done.  

Grill or toast the sourdough, and rub each slice with a the squashed garlic clove.

Add the butter to the pan to finish, season to taste with the salt and pepper and toss to coat everything in the butter and seasoning.  If there is still a little liquid in the pan, cook for another few minutes until it reduces.  This will depend on the mushrooms you have used.  

Serve on the grilled sourdough, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.  If you are feeling fancy you could sprinkle with crumbled fetta, or parmesan..... or both.  Let's face it though - by this time the smell of the mushroom and chorizo cooking will have your mouth watering so you will probably just want to eat it as is.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Secret Squirrel Muesli Bars

This recipe, I must admit, was borne out of pure laziness.  Long have we been in love with the idea of packing enough nutrients and energy into a ready to eat format that could serve as in impromptu morning or afternoon tea, without sacrificing the essential ingredient - flavour.  Yes I know, there's a fruitbowl overflowing on the table, smoothies that can be made, or let's face it, a little thing called organisation.  However it's not every day; not even every week that we are organised enough to have planned any meals for the day besides dinner.  

You see so called 'health' bars for sale at the supermarkets, with labels spouting all kind of meaningless or downright dishonest claims.  Claims that can be exposed by even the quickest look at the nutritional information panel on the label.  I make no claim about these bars, other than they taste damn good, and they are great for a quick snack on the run.  I think they're fairly healthy, I think they are full of ingredients that are good for you, I also think they are a great find when you are engaging in a spot of pantry-browsing.  Yes they have a little sugar (no processed sugar however) and a lot of energy, but they are fairly guilt free, and tasty.  Enjoy!

Secret Squirrel Muesli Bars

Wet ingredients

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Rice Bran Oil
1/3 cup Almond butter - look for sugarfree versions, or make it yourself (you could    substitute sunflower seed butter)
1 tsp vanilla

Dry Ingredients

1/2 cup Dessicated coconut
1 cup Rolled oats
1/2 cup Puffed rice
2 cups Mixed nuts (I used macadamias, peanuts, cashews and almonds - all unsalted)
1 cup mixed seeds (I used sunflower and pumpkin seeds)

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

You can mix and match these and include or exclude whatever you like, just stick to similar quantities.  Other suggestions are dried fruit or chocolate bits.


Preheat the oven to 160 deg Celsius.  Line a 9" x 9" slice tin with baking paper.

In a small saucepan, over low heat, add the wet ingredients listed above, and stir until smooth and liquid.  Add the vanilla and salt, stir, and remove from the heat.  

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Stir through the mixture from the saucepan.    If it's a little wet and not really clumping together, you could add 1/4 of almond meal, or LSA mix.  

Press firmly into the prepared baking tray, and bake at 160 deg Celsius for 15 minutes.  Check, and bake for another 5 minutes if needed.  They are done once the slice has started to turn golden brown.  Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly.

Allow to cool in the tray, then remove and slice into bars.  They seem to keep better in the fridge.  


Friday, October 26, 2012

Obligatory yearly blog post

I am beginning to see a pattern emerge here.  After a year or so of posting quite regularly, it seems that every now and again (the last hiatus was twelve months) I seem to feel the need to give this overgrown and wild page it's yearly tidy up.  Don't get too excited though.  Now that we are running a fleet of children there is precious little time left in the day to be trying out new things in the kitchen; let alone writing about and photographing said kitchen creations.

Just so we're clear, and there is no presumption that I am getting ahead of myself, I'm not going to write about a recipe in this post.  Instead I will fill it with a few photos of things that have been created and consumed in this house lately.  Hopefully you will find the photographs vastly improved- I hope so anyway.  Much time has been spent on the early modules of a photography course; not to mention the coin spent on two upgrades of our camera in the meantime.

Should this post give me the impetus to move forward and actually keep posting on here, there is probably one change that I will make to the page.  Rather than let it wither away in the ether, it may take on a slightly new slant.  As the aforementioned fleet of children requires sustenance to fuel their daily exploring, rummaging and destroying, I may dedicate the odd post here and there to the creation of tasty food for the tribe.  That said, in no way will the number of posts regarding anything sugar or chocolate laden, grilled or deep-fried, or generally deliciously unhealthy be impacted.

Below: Sweet success with Macarons.  We used a Zumbo recipe, and they came out perfectly.  Obviously we may need to work on our piping skills....

Pork Belly, Raddiccio, Roquette 

Meatball and Mozarella sub

Mother's Day Croque Madame

A shot for one of my photography assignments

Beef cheek croustillant with sauce verte - recipe here

Mmmmm.... bread - fresh from the Weber

Slow cooked lamb with lentils and bacon crumbs.