Monday, June 29, 2009

Big menu Monday – what’s cooking this week?

(Saturday breakfast: I hadn't had finger buns in a very long time. Far, far too sweet!)

Welcome again to another week of repertoire food! Frugality and using up leftovers are the theme for this week. I did a whole lot of baking over the weekend - including Guest Editor Shirley’s divine sultana cake, and I also made a delicious looking (haven’t tried it yet!) hedgehog slice from some leftover stuff in my fridge. Yesterday we had roast veal for lunch, which, whilst tender, was largely uninspiring. I was slightly disappointed, and am looking for pointers to enhance it for next time. This week I will be making a Choucroute Garni, with fennel and pork sausages. Tomorrow: vegetarian (black bean) fajitas. This weeks Gluten Free meal will be Spaghetti Bolognaise, (as cooked by Food Critic Andrew followed by tapioca and coconut pudding (cooked by me!). I will attempt to find out the secret of amazing spaghetti bolognaise dear reader – but I cannot make any promises. The recipe is jealously guarded! There will also be numerous variations of crepes! - Both gluten free, as well as a lighter, fluffier “regular” version using soda water. I am also tossing up doing some salmon croquettes later in the week, as I have some instant potato mash that I really need to use up shortly. I think they will be served with a homemade tartare sauce, which I think will be the real star of the show there! As for weekend baking – well, I am currently veering towards making some jammy fairy cakes, or perhaps a jelly cake. I think you can probably see the theme here, dear reader? What have you planned to make this week?

Celebrating the solstice (or...Summer is on the way!)

So last week marked the Winter Solstice here in the Southern hemisphere - and happily it also happened to be a Sunday. Excellent excuse for a pork roast, I say! But I won't go through the “ins and outs” of what I think makes the best pork roast here - I'll save that for another post. Here I'll concentrate on the mulled wine and the Yule Log that I couldn't help but make.

Mulled Wine:

I’m certainly no wine connoisseur, but I think that Australia does some lovely Shirazes - so I picked up a bottle of that. I really do think you need a nice fruity red for this - to nicely complement the sweetness of mulled wine. To make approx 300mL mulled wine: 250 mL Shiraz or other fruity red wine 1/3 cup water 2-3 tbsp honey (to taste! So leave the honey out) 1 tbsp each of orange juice and lemon juice 3 cloves 1 tsp nutmeg 1 cinnamon stick Simmer over a very low heat for approximately 20 mins, ensuring honey is dissolved. Add more to your taste. I preferred it quite sweet! And Food Critic Andrew agreed with me that this was a nice, sweet wine. Strain into glasses and Serve warm.

I hadn't really intended initially to make any sort of dessert for roast pork lunch, and I didn't. A dinner invitation was extended to us by some dear friends so I thought I'd make a Yule Log in the spirit of the winter solstice. I'd also bought a jelly roll pan so obviously (!) had to take it for a test bake. This was a hit with everyone. I was initially a bit worried about the chocolate fudge icing, wondering if it would be a bit too rich overall. As it turns out though, the icing was exactly right, and was the thing I am most proud of. The sponge was OK - but actually I think I would prefer a more chocolate-ey affair. The sponge turned out nicely raised - I must have whipped the egg white enough! I am so tempted to make another sponge just so I can actually believe that I can do a great job baking one. I wish I’d taken a picture of the inside now that I'm writing this so you could see what I mean, but you'll just have to believe me. The whipped cream filling was a slight disaster. It soaked into the sponge and was barely visible (except at the ends). A quick survey of the internets suggests that the fact that I had used a Tatura ‘pre-whipped’ cream may have actually contributed to this considerably. I don't usually use it I promise! But I was running out of time, and the nearest convenience store only had the pre-whipped stuff. (Food Critic Andrew is quite happily eating it from the can as I write, probably! It’s very sweet. Far, far too sweet for me). I was quite appalled - I mean, who doesn't carry cream in their convenience store? Not very convenient, evidentially. They did have ‘pure’ cream, but I was actually slightly unsure as to whether it would whip OK, given that it has no thickener. So, not wanting to abandon the entire project I chose the pre-whipped stuff. The internets now assure me that whipping pure cream is do-able as well. I will experiment with that! (As a side note, I also discovered the difference between clotted cream and regular whipped cream. Sounds delicious - I've just found a recipe. Gosh I love this job).

Chocolate Sponge (adapted from “Cookery: The Australian Way”, Cameron, Russell and Williams, 5th ed):

½ cup (75 g) plain flour
3 tbsp (30 g) cornflour
1 tspn baking powder
3 eggs
½ cup (125 g) caster sugar
15 grm cocoa
2 tbsp (40mL) water

Either: 250 mL whipped cream, or 1 quantity chocolate fudge icing.

Chocolate fudge frosting:

120 grms best dark cooking chocolate
¼ cup (50 g) unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
175 g icing sugar

Making the chocolate roll:

Set oven to 190 celsius
Sift flours, cocoa and baking powder

Separate the eggs, and place whites into a mixing bowl. Beat until stiff, gradually adding sugar whilst doing so.
Add egg yolks, and beat until mixture resembles thick cream
Gently fold in sifted flour
If it is very thick, add water (do not overmix)
Pour into a greased swiss roll or lamington pan
Bake at 190 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Turn sponge onto a clean tea towel that has been sprinkled with caster sugar. Remove any baking paper, and trim any crusts that have formed.
Stand for 2 minutes
Unroll, and spread cake with with whipped cream or fudge frosting.


Place chocolate and butter in microwave and melt for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (until smooth).
Add egg and beat until combined
Add sifted icing sugar and beat until smooth and glossy.

Pour most of the mixture over the roll for a glossy base.
Leave to cool and thicken, then spread with a butter knife over for a “bark” effect.
Sprinkle with some sifted castor sugar

Lemon steamed puddings!

A lovely winter treat that I'm rather fond of is the simple steamed pudding. A few nights ago I decided that I would make a few lemon steamed puddings for dessert. Now – of course I cook a lot, and I am often concerned by the amount of leftovers I seem to generate. Not such a bad thing of course, but it does keep piling up and up! And sometimes I feel as though I am fighting a losing battle wrestling with the contents of my fridge.

So I decided to make exactly half of this [LINK] recipe I found on the Woman’s day Australia site, and see how that turns out. And in fact, the puddings turned out quite lovely – especially with a drizzle of lemon at the end. The only thing I would change is that I would put them on whilst cooking dinner (they have a 40 minute cook time), so as to minimise (or at least contain!) the dishes I need to do (I felt like I did 2-3 lots of dishes last night!).

So here’s my version (makes 3 ramekin puddings)

30g butter
¼ cup castor sugar
1 egg
¾ cup sifted SR flour
1/8 cup milk
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
Lemon wedges, to drizzle
Cream, to serve

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy
Add egg and mix until mixture is fluffly and pale
Fold in flour and milk

Lightly grease and flour 3 (3/4 cup size) ramekins
Divide pudding mix between the ramkins
Cover each one tightly with greased aluminium foil, and seal (you can use kitchen string to tightly tie – I just “overfolded” the foil, so there was little chance of water getting in
Place in a large soup pot, and add boiling water until the water is halfway up the side of the ramekins.
Bring to boil, then turn heat to low and let it simmer for 40 mins.

Remove from pot, and turn into bowls. Drizzle with lemon juice, and serve with cream.

Yum! And frugal – lots of people have these simple ingredients already in their cupboard. That’s what I like about this recipe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And a final note for the evening....

These look absolutely amazing. I love NQN's photography, and I love pastries even more! I think there's going to have to be some homemade pastry in my life this weekend. Possibly for breakfast!

Kangaroo Chilli... By Tom

Helen came into work with the most amazing looking chili for her lunch, and she kindly asked her husband to supply me with the recipe.. Kangaroos are pests here in Australia, and have a smaller carbon footprint, so using Kangaroo meat in cuisine is a step forward for the environment. I won't even get into the argument as to why we as a nation eat one of our national emblems! As an aside, emu,on the other side of the Australian Coat of Arms, is also very tasty. Anyway - here is Tom's recipe. Thanks, Tom!


500g Kangaroo mince

1 large onion, diced

Finely chopped garlic (I used almost half a bulb but that may be pushing it for some)

5 dried chillies, chopped

2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

Tomato paste, approx. ½ cup

Salt, pepper

Italian Herbs


  1. Toss the onion, garlic and chili together in a frying pan with some olive oil until the onion caramelises.
  2. Add the roo mince and brown.
  3. Add the tomato and mix it all together for a few minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste, Italian herbs and stir.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Cover and let simmer for approx. 10 mins stirring occasionally.

It should be noted that this simplest of simple recipes came out of me trying to make a spag. bol. sauce, believing I had tinned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and pasta in the pantry. As it turned out, I had none of the above – a fact I only discovered after I had chopped the onion, garlic and chili as well as defrosting the mince.

Also, I thought I had pulled regular beef mince out of the freezer which, in fact, turned out to be roo mince.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leftover lovin’ – Quail, bacon and leek pie.

As previously mentioned, I am trying to divest my freezer of some of its contents in the hope that I will have some room for some ice cream (vanilla, and I have some marvellous ideas for how it can be jazzed up considerably. I’m doing this all for you, dear reader!)

I have some frozen leftover quail wrapped in bacon, which I had initially thought I should make some soup with. I need an excuse to make yet another pie! I also have a leek clogging up my kitchen which I need to use as well.

The pie was quite delicious, and could be made with leftover roast chicken if you have some of that lying around. Food Critic Andrew nodded his approval – this is definitely repertoire – or at least a great start to a repertoire kind of dish! I have seen some recipes that add extra things for flavour such as white wine, so I’m tempted to add that and a lot more pepper next time. I tend to think that I am a chronic under-seasoner – something I am trying to work on!

1 quantity sour cream pastry
1 sheet pre-rolled puff pastry, thawed

2 (cooked) quails wrapped in bacon,
(Or – alternatively – 350 grm (approx) shredded cooked chicken pieces and 2 rashers cooked bacon). Remove any stuffing
1 leek, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp garlic, to taste
Oregano flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper

4 tbsp cornflour
½ cup chicken stock

Blind bake the shortcrust pastry
Whilst it is blind baking, sauté the leek and onion in a pan with garlic.
Add the quail/chicken and bacon and continue to cook for a few moments.
Add cornflour and stock, enough to ensure the mix is nice and moist. You may need to add more in the same ratio, if you prefer a more liquid-ey pie.
Add salt, pepper and oregano flakes to your taste.
After the shortcrust pastry has been blind baked, pour the mix into the base, and affix the puff pastry over the top. Press down on the sides to ensure no leakage.
Using a small sharp knife, cut a small ‘x’ in the top of the pastry

As a side note – the picture above is of one of the baby apple pies that I made with the leftover shortcrust pastry.

Mini apple pie filling –

1 peeled and cored apple, cut up then stewed with castor sugar makes enough for 2 mini pies.
Before adding the lid, (I used shortcrust for these lids) sprinkle over some cinnamon.
Cook at 180 degrees celcius for about 40 mins, or until pastry is nice and browned.

Serve with whipped cream. Oddly, we didn’t have any! But I’m assured by Food Critic Andrew that the apple pie was very lovely nevertheless.

Big menu monday....

Well yes, it is in fact Tuesday, but I’m certainly a persistent lass. Of course – last night I made a fabulous Quail, bacon and leek pie. Tonight I’m making a bit of Fried rice – yes – the leftover ‘use-up’ continues. We have far too much food in our fridge! Wednesday night heralds for you, dear reader, the start of a new segment – Gluten Free Cooking!

I am not gluten intolerant, but we have a regular visitor who is. So I am constantly on the lookout for gluten free recipes, to ensure our lovely guest doesn’t go hungry. I am trying to make my gluten free meals to suit us all, and with minimal cost or extra effort. I am planning my famous chicken udon soup, made instead with some rice noodles I have about. I am slightly concerned about how the rice noodles will hold up. For dessert, there will be rice flour crepes served with jam and cream.

And that’s as far as I’ve planned so far. I’ll certainly update you if I try anything exciting. Food Critic Andrew’s Mum, Guest editor Shirley, has supplied me with some wonderful recipes for me to try. I’ve had this amazing craving recently for a fruit cake or mince pies of some description, so will try Shirley’s recipe for sultana cake. It looks great – and I can hardly wait till the weekend to try it out.

Helen's almond and honey slice...

Last week at work we celebrated my colleague’s 1st year anniversary at our workplace. We planned a proper ‘morning tea’ with some lovely teas and some fancies to enjoy. I made scones, (served of course with jam and cream) as well as custard powder cupcakes (they turned out very nicely, but I have some more experimentation to do before I present a jammy version to you!). Helen made some absolutely amazing almond and honey slice. It was just the right side of crunchy for me – but Helen assures me that they are even better when they are a bit softer.
1/2 quantity shortcrust pastry (I used a whole packet of milk arrowroot biscuits for the one the other day)
90g unsalted butter
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup hiney
1 tbs cream
1 tbs brandy or other liqueur or spirit
100g flaked almonds, pine nnuts or sunflower seeds

1. Preheat oven to 200oC. Line a 30cmx20cm baking tray with baking paper and then with pastry. Bake blind for 20 minutes, then remove weights and foil. Turn oven up to 220oC.
2. Bring remaining ingredients to the boil, stirring.
3. Spread evenly over pastry. Bake until topping is bubbling and evenly caramelised, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from oven very carefully - the topping sticks like toffee and if touched can result in a nasty burn.
5. Cool completely before cutting into 5cm x 4cm pieces.

variations: I sometimes include finely chopped candied angelica or glace fruit in the topping.

Source: Stephanie Alexander The Cook's Companion 2nd Ed p 497.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leftover Puff Pastry = spontaneous desert

Despite it only being a month from the last time I'd made sausage rolls, I couldn't remember if it used 3 or 4 puff pastry sheets, so I decided to thaw 4 sheets and make some sort of galette if I didn't need the 4th sheet. And so it came to pass, happily!

I had been a bit too efficient and had already cut the pastry in half, as per my recipe for sausage rolls, so decided I would make 2 small galettes. You know how sometimes when you start cooking you're really not sure how they're going to turn out? Well this is one of those times. But they were utterly, amazingly great, and I'll definitely make these again. I did a plain apple version, as well as a apple and rhubarb version. Top marks from Food Critic Andrew, who even eschewed a bit of cheesecake for a slice of this:


1 granny smith (or similar cooking type) apple
Cut up rhubarb
1 sheet thawed puff pastry, cut in half
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp raw sugar


  1. Shape the pastry into 2 small rectangular tart tins (lined with baking paper)
  2. Spread 1 tbsp of sugar over the bases of the pastries
  3. Core the apple, and cut into the smallest, thinnest segments you can, and then arrange them, overlapping on the pastries.
  4. Arrange some cut up rhubarb over the top.
  5. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and the remaining sugar for a few minutes until caramelised.
  6. Dribble the syrup over the pastries and then bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 220 degree oven, or until the pastry is cooked and risen, and the fruit has some colour.
  7. Cut into slices or squares
  8. Serve warm and crispy with whipped cream

Here is the plain apple version....yum!

Sausage rolls...a little bit of love wrapped up in a hug

My mum used to make the most amazing sausage rolls - crispy little bundles of goodness that everyone adored. She wasn't someone to write her recipes down, and so now that she's passed on all those secret recipes are lost to the ages, sadly. So a while ago I attempted to make my own version. They're hugely popular in my house, and never ever go to waste! They also make heaps, so if you're after something for a whole lot of people - try these. I made these recently when my Dad, Sister, Niece and Nephew showed up after a long car drive. Just the thing to feed hungry hordes. Easy and comforting for winter, as well. On a related note, this Sunday (21 June 2009) here in Australia marks mid-winter! So I am planning a winter solstice feast lunch. Stay tuned for that adventure.....

A note about the sausage meat: the first time I made these, I tried to go all gourmet and make them with some kind of yummo luxury mince.But they just don't taste as traditional as I had wanted! It's very important for the taste of this recipe that you use the cheap packet of sausage mince that you buy in the meat section of your local friendly supermarket. I'm not even sure what kind of meat it is, and I'm not sure I even want to know. As a side benefit, this is a nice frugal meal.

So here's my recipe

makes 12 large, or 24 small sausage rolls



500grm sausage roll meat (the packet type from Woolworths/Safeway or Coles)
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
1 onion
1/4 cup of Parmesan/parmigiano reggiano or other strong tasting hard cheese
2 tbsp of tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
dried or fresh oregano
Fresh parsley, if you have some

3 sheets of store bought puff pastry, thawed (or equivalent amount if you can make the stuff!)

  1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius
  2. Drain both the grated carrot and zucchini (this is very important so the rolls don't get soggy!)
  3. Finely chop the onion
  4. Cut pastry sheets in half
  5. Mix all filling ingredients together with your hands
  6. Take just over half a cup of the filling mixture, and lay down on one of the long edges of the pastry.
  7. Roll the pastry across to form the sausage roll, and seal the edges with a little bit of water, pressing down.
  8. Cut either in half or quarters, depending on which size you like. (Or, like me - a combination of both!)
  9. Bake for 10-15 mins , then turn down your oven by about 20 degrees and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  10. Turn them over if you like a crispy base for a few more minutes
  11. When the pastry is nice and crispy, remove from oven, and serve with a dollop tomato sauce (if it pleases you!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why is there not enough mexican cuisine in my life?

Or tex-mex for that matter? Sydney is curiously bereft of mexican (and when I say that, I do mean tex-mex cuisine - I'd love to try 'mexican' but the concept is probably a bit too much for Sydney so far. Baby steps, people!
I absolutely love Cafe Pacifico in East sydney, and am looking forward to visiting again soon when our West Australian via Brisbane via Mackay friend visits, hopefully with much tequila imbibement.

I have spent a curiously long time looking for authentic mexican recipes - but am wondering that perhaps I need my spanish to be better first.

Update on the best ever cheesecake (for Andrew's Mum! - Guest editor Shirley)

It's so rainy outside, so I am trying to remember what it looks like when its sunny here. I attempted the best ever cheesecake again over the weekend. I'd promised Food Critic Andrew that I would make him another. I bet he is very glad I don't actually like them! (More for him!) So, remember my last attempt a few weeks ago - where I had thought it was a failure. I think I should possibly call this "trustcake" 'cause you just have to trust that it's going OK.

So this time instead of doing the fiddly bit with the cutting out of the baking paper I just whacked in some extra wide baking paper that I had found. And what was the result? Not much difference, except cosmetic (from the baking paper). The base still looked the same, so I guess it went better than I thought on the first go!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Its strawberry season finally! I picked up a couple of punnets from Aldi yesterday - they had finally dropped under $2 for a punnet (which, in Sydney is really cheap). I come from a strawberry growing area so I'm always disappointed that I have to pay for them in the first place. So I'm certainly not going to pay an insane amount for them , despite how yummy they are. I just finished off a bowl of them - perfectly sweet and delicious. They were just perfect, and I want some more! I think sometimes I am far more enamoured of fruit desserts than chocolate sometimes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Sometimes you really just need to make a very minimalist meal - I'm not saying in terms of ingredients, but in terms of effort. Over the weekend, I was very busy in the test kitchen making sushi, tempura, chocolate tarts (all of which turned out OK, but still need work before I release them to your good selves. Side note - the tempura turned out way better than I expected) and by Monday night, I was just a bit over it and needed some good, simple, little to no effort food. I guess this differs for everyone, but for me, that meal is grilled garlic lamb chops, served with danish fetta, crunchy salad and a nice glass of wine. Food Critic Andrew loves some crinkly chips with his. I guess it's when you've had a _________ of a day, and just need to put something easy and comforting for your meal. My "minimalist meal" has changed over the years. Many years ago, when I was living by myself, it was what I now call 'emergency pasta'. It basically consisted of cooked pasta, add to that a good quantity of Raguletto's Romano pasta sauce (tomato and romano cheese - sooo tasty) and stir through. Then, add lots and lots and lots of grated cheese, to your fancy. If, like me you like your cheese melted through, then microwave for less than a minute until your cheese is melted. (Cheap, quick, but not very balanced! I'm sure that's part of the reason I put on so much weight over the years) Later on, it's quite difficult to get all that melted cheese of your cutlery and plates as well. What's your minimalist meal?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Apple and Hazelnut strudel to cheer one up

I was feeling a bit flat when I got home last night, so I made a most delicious Apple and Hazelnut Strudel, and it was served with whipped cream. It was inspired by this recipe over at The problem I find with most recipes is that I am tending to make them for 2 people (Food Critic Andrew and Myself). I love making things like this for everyday - but these tend to be recipes for 6-8 people; that is, dinner party size servings. I mean, I'm a scientist, I can (sort of!) do the math, but I do wish some things were more directed at smaller serves. Anyway, I made this with:

For the filling:
one granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
juice of one lemon
a few drops of rum essence or a spoon of real rum if you have some!
tspn cinnamon
tablespoon of caster sugar
2 tablespoons of hazelnuts, which I roasted in a skillet pan; skinned and lightly chopped

One sheet of ready made puff pastry
enough bread crumbs to lightly cover the pastry
1 egg yolk

Mix the filling;
spead bread crumbs lightly over pastry
spoon mix into middle of pastry, then roll into a log shape.
Seal with the egg yolk

Chill for 20 minutes in the fridge, brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk then bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees (c).

Serve with whipped cream!

I actually loved this, but Andrew wasn't such a big fan. I made it quite sour and tangy tasting - which I love - but you could actually make this far sweeter (use less lemon and rum) if you have more of a sweet tooth.

It's definitely a dessert thing! All that rum makes it not so much a breakfast treat!
Next time I may make it sweeter to try that out, and I think this strudel recipe could really be substituted with all sorts of different fruits and nuts.

I would also probably cut the log into wheels - I think that the pastry would be a bit more golden-ish looking on the sides if I did this.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu Monday: Whats cooking this week?

So, this week I am totally obsessed with chocolate of all kinds...and particularly the Hershey's chocolate website and the black magic cake that is in there......Oh, it looks like several different types of heaven!

So what am I planning on cooking this week?

Well, firstly I need to explain the amazingness that was my weekend cooking - but that's probably for the next post. I made cranberry bliss bread, lemon tea cake, pannacottas, zucchini pancakes, roasted quail.....And I now have a fridge that is truly bursting! with food.

Fairly easy night tonight - steamed up some basa fillet and served it with capers and lemon juice, and a nice side salad. Sometimes Mondays are about taking it easy and light, especially after a big weekend of eating.

Tomorrow night - Food Critic Andrew is making his famous Spaghetti bolognaise.. Fairly sure this is a scret recipe, but I will try to take some photos for the blog, and possibly glean some of his secrets.

Other things I'd like to try this week - include a simple beef casserole, with yorkshire puddings.

And I'd love to get my hands on some quandong jam to make quandong ice cream...yum