Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

To me, Christmas is all about family and for my family that means, it's all about food.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas morning has been spent in the kitchen. After opening our Christmas presents (of course!)

Our extended family then gathers for lunch, the cooks: my mother, my aunt, my cousin and me always, always! cook way too much food. Every year we try to limit the amount of food we make. But it is not unusual to see a couple of boxes of food coming into the house from each person. I doubt this year will be any different.

In the spirit of my Nana, we cook. We cook to feed our loved ones, to nourish them, to show our love for them and to feed our own souls. For that is who we are. That was who my Nana was.

Things may be quiet around here for a while, but my kitchen will be filled with noise - clattering and chattering. Much food will be shared over the next few weeks as family and friends come and go from our home. When I get a chance, I will come and share a recipe or two. But until then...

Merry Christmas

I wish you and your families a happy and safe holiday season. Happy cooking and happy eating.

(the ultimate Christmas feast - the painting above is a favourite of mine. It is Carl Larsson's 'Christmas Eve')

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No more cookies

Note to self: do not make any promises to anyone for anything a week before Christmas.

I haven't had a chance to do to much biscuit baking since last week. I did make another batch of speculaas and some honey cookies yesterday. I share the honey cookie recipe with you today. I think that that will be the last of my biscuit baking for this year, with just three more sleeps, there is still so much other cooking to do.

Here is my 'christmas cooking to do' list:


fruit mince pies

more rum balls

cherry ripe slice

sri lankan love cake

chicken liver pate

potted pork with apple and raisin marmalade


classic english trifle

white chocolate and sour cherry cheesecake

onion and currant marmalade

red onion marmalade

spiced macadamia nuts

chocolate truffles

The Sri Lankan Love Cake is in the oven now, but I still need to shop for some my other cooking. Oh and have I mentioned that Christmas is at my house..... This means I also need to clean!

Here is the honey cookie recipe that I cooked yesterday. I first made these many years ago to take along to a end of year picnic with friends. I really like these cookies, however the jury in this house of taste testers is still out. I'm posting it anyway, like I said, I really like them. However, I think that the quest for the perfect honey cookie is not over. My husbands suggestion was that they need more spice. Last night, quite by accident, I came across a 'spiced' honey cookie recipe while looking for something else.

There is always next year.

The dough for these cookies was really crumbly, but by picking up a teaspoon size of the mixture and tossing it between both hands a few times, the dough became a workable dough that I could roll into a ball.

Ukrainian Honey Cookies

makes 20 - 25 biscuits

• 125 grams unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

• 3 tablespoons honey
• 120 grams sugar
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

• 1 egg yolk
• 325 grams plain flour

• raw sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare baking trays. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, honey, sugar, bicarbonate soda and egg yolk. Mix well. Gradually sift in the flour to the mixture, stirring to combine. The dough should be firm enough to be rolled into a soft ball. Roll into teaspoon size balls and dip into the raw sugar, place the dough balls 1 inch apart on the baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden. Leave on the tray to cool for a few minutes before removing to a rack to cool.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dutch Speculaas Biscuits

I first fell in love with these Dutch biscuits when I moved to Brisbane and worked next door to an amazing continental delicatessen. There were so many unknown treats to be discovered under it's roof.

We ate them often.

It was only a few years ago that I baked speculaas for myself. Where we live now, they are not so readily available. After baking them at home, it is impossible to go back to the store bought variety. I usually make them only for Christmas. I have always used this flower cookie cutter for some reason, but next year I might invest in one of these gorgeous windmill molds.

Out of the four batches of different biscuits I cooked the other day, these were the most satisfying. The dough formed well and was very easy to work with, we had these made in no time. Not to mention, they are delicious.

makes 20 - 30 biscuits

• 125 grams unsalted butter (softened)
• 3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

• 1 1/2 tablespoons rum
• 1 1/2 cups plain flour

• 2 teaspoons baking powder

• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

• 1 egg white (lightly beaten)

• 2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Grease and prepare baking trays. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the rum and mix well. Gradually sift in the flour, baking powder and all of the spices, stirring until well combined. Bring the dough into a ball and then transfer to a well floured bench to knead for a couple of minutes. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 5mm. Cut out your shapes with a cookie cutter (dutch windmills are traditional) or even into rectangles with a sharp knife. Brush the biscuits with egg white and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 12 minutes or until they are golden brown and firm. Allow to cool on the trays.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cookies

(speculaas and danish butter cookies)

Opps! I had completely forgotten that I had promised recipes for the next seven days....

Yesterday I was baking. Four batches of Christmas cookies and a Christmas cake. I was also battling (yes battling) with very tired children and we had my husband's Christmas party to attend. A Christmas party, I had also completely forgotten about!

To make it up to you I am posting two recipes today. Danish butter biscuits and ginger cookies.

I first made these butter cookies years ago. In fact the recipe (since adjusted) had been ripped out of a Cosmopolitan Magazine. (I have not bought that since I was 16!) I made these cookies as part of a mixed tin of Christmas cookies that I gave as gifts one year. This was the one cookie that everyone wanted the recipe for.

I have made two batches of these this year, one last week and again yesterday. I needed to add more butter to my mixture than listed in the original recipe. The recipe below has been adjusted to how I made them. The dough was a bit crumbly and I really needed to shape my dough into logs rather than roll them. However the outcome on both occasions has been successful looking and yummy tasting butter cookies.

If you make these, I would love to know how you went with your mixture. Maybe it's my flour?

Danish Butter Cookies


makes about 40 cookies

• 255 grams butter - the best you can afford (softened)

• 175 grams caster sugar

• 350 grams plain flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• a pinch of salt

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• icing sugar

Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon. Turn onto the bench and knead for about 5 minutes until a soft workable cookie dough forms. The mixture will probably be very crumbly at first. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log shape, about 4 cm in diameter. Wrap the dough logs in baking paper and chill for 1 hour or until required.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Grease 2 large baking trays. Cut the dough into 6 mm slices and lay onto the baking trays, 5 cm apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on the trays until crisp. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with icing sugar.

I have just realised that there is no icing sugar on the cookies in the photo at the start of this recipe. That is because they have been and made to be frozen and I will sprinkle them with icing sugar when I am going to serve them.

Ginger cookies. We love ginger everything in this house. So these are often cooked throughout the year. This is a soft biscuit, which I don't usually bake, but I like this recipe for a few different reasons.

First and most importantly, especially at this time of year: these are easy. Made in minutes with no rest time and just 10 minutes in the oven. Extra quick if you can find little helpers to help you roll them into balls. They are perfect for a last minute Christmas gift or to make when friends and family 'pop in' during the holiday season. I really love the spicy ginger kick to them.

Ginger Cookies

makes 40 - 50

• 125 grams unsalted butter (softened)
• 3/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)

• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

• 1/4 cup ground ginger

• 2 cups plain flour

• 2 tablespoons golden syrup (mixed with 1/4 cup hot water)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Prepare baking trays. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the soda, ginger and flour with a wooden spoon. Once mixed stir in the syrup mixture, not all at once, you don't want the mixture to get to wet. Mix to form a soft dough. Roll the mixture into teaspoon size balls and place 5 cm apart on the baking trays. Lightly flatten with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on the trays.

My speculaas recipe tomorrow - I promise!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'On Line Biccie/Cookie Exchange'

The lovely Kimmie has asked me to be part of her 'On Line Biccie/Cookie Exchange'. However I don't really bake any biscuits that fall into her two categories:

Let us all share our favourite biccie/cookie recipes. It can fall into one of two categories.

1. A favourite biccie/cookie recipe that has been handed down through the generations in your family.


2. A favourite biccie/cookie recipe that has become a holiday tradition in your families home. You know the one, it's not quite Christmas without it.

I would love to say that a biscuit recipe I cook had been passed down from generation to generation, but it hasn't. I don't remember my Nana or Granny ever baking cookies and my working mother never did (correct me if I'm wrong Mum) Nope, during my seventies childhood it was all store bought Arnotts biscuits for me - except when I went to the neighbours place for afternoon tea.

As for a traditional Christmas recipe? Our Christmases would never be the same without Cherry Ripe Slice and Rum Balls. But they are not biscuits.


As luck would have it, this years Christmas cooking is all about the cookies!!

I am wanting to make Christmas cookies a tradition for my own family. So with a collection of favourites that I have baked for gifts over the years, this week I will be cooking them again and therefore creating our own Christmas favourites.

Each day for the next seven days I will (hopefully) post a new Christmas cookie recipe. Maybe one of them will become your favourite too.

Today I will leave you with the new recipe I tried last Christmas for the first time, Sticky Date and Orange Cookies - yummo! The picture above is of Danish Butter Biscuits, I will post this recipe tomorrow.

If you have a family Christmas cookie recipe you want to share or are just after some cookie inspiration, pop over to Serendipity Cafe.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Silverbeet and Cheese Pie

We are trying to eat less meat in our house. I know that my children would live on sausages alone if they could.

Here are a few reasons why:

1) I would rather spend money on good quality, locally sourced meat. It costs more so it makes sense to eat less. I would rather do that than eat cheap meat everyday.

2) It is a less expensive way to feed our family

3) It's better for your body and better for the environment

I grew up in a meat and three veg. family, we never ate a vegetarian meal for dinner. It never would have been considered. But serving a meal without meat has never bothered me.

I think that years living in London when I was younger helped shaped how I eat today. In England, I (a budget traveller) could not afford to buy meat. I was lucky that I worked in the food industry and we ate at work - very well! But at home we always cooked vegetarian, sometimes chicken. I did cook a lamb roast, only once, that was to celebrate a friend coming out of a 2 month stay in hospital.

I made this silverbeet and cheese pie on the weekend for dinner. It is similar to Spanakopita - very yummy. This is the very last piece in the photo. It disappeared so quickly I think I will be making it again soon.

I do need to mention that my children only ate the salad. The following night we cooked sausages for dinner.

Silverbeet and Cheese Pie

serves 6-8

for the pastry

• 10 sheets filo pastry

• 200 grams butter (melted)

for the filling

• 1 bunch silverbeet (roughly chopped and wilted)

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 onion (diced)

• 4 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 1 cup yoghurt

• 1 cup cottage cheese

• 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

• 4 eggs (lightly beaten)
• juice of 2 lemons

• 1 teaspoon nutmeg

• a pinch cayenne pepper

• salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 25cm pie dish. (I used a 30 x 18cm baking dish) Heat the oil in a small frying pan and gently sauté the onion and garlic until soft. In a large bowl combine all of the filling ingredients, add the onion and garlic and mix well.

Line the pie dish with the sheets of filo pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Pour in the filling and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until lightly brown and set.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chinese Spare Ribs

My mother used to cook these pork spare ribs when I was growing up. I always loved them. I think that this is a slight variation to her original recipe, but this is the recipe I have been cooking for a long time now.

They can be cooked either in the oven or on the barbecue. Mum always oven baked hers and so did I; that was until we cooked them for a family barbecue one day. Everybody loved them, so now we cook them on the barbecue most of the time. One friend always requests them if she is coming for lunch.

Maybe your guests will too.

Be warned: the honey makes for a lot on smoke on the barbecue!

Chinese Spare Ribs

serves 4-6

• 1 kilogram pork spare ribs

the marinade

• 3 tablespoon soy sauce

• 2 tablespoon dry sherry
• 5 tablespoon hoisin sauce
• 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

• 2 tablespoon honey

Mix all ingredients together and marinate overnight. Barbecue or oven bake.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

(sorry about the bad, out-of-focus, photo taken quickly before sitting down to dinner)

A few years ago we went on a family beach holiday for a week. I took one cookbook away with me. It was one of the Annual Italian Issue's of Delicious magazine. And what a delicious week it was. Many of the recipes that I cooked that week have become favourite recipes in this house. It was the first time I had cooked eggplant parmigiana, served with a big green salad and a glass of red wine out on the deck - the sea breeze in our hair.

Ahhh, holidays!

I have played around with that original recipe a little bit over the years. And as with some of my other recipes, you will notice that I have taken a few short cuts. Instead of dusting the eggplant in flour and pan frying it, I oven bake it. For me, I love this dish in summer, served, just as I mentioned it was served on our summer holiday and just how I served it last night.

Yesterday afternoon, while the eggplant baked and the sauce simmered, I was outside sitting in the shade with the kids, catching a late afternoon breeze - far away from the heat of the kitchen. It is so hot here right now. It is no fun spending time in a sweltering kitchen.

Hence the reason for my shortcut.

Eggplant Parmigiana

serves 8

• 3-4 eggplants (about 1 kilogram - sliced lengthwise into 5 mm wide slices)

• olive oil

• salt and pepper
• 3 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 2 x 400 gram tins diced tomatoes

• 1/4 cup basil leaves (torn)
• 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) mozzarella cheese
(grated or sliced)
• 3/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

to serve

• baby basil leaves

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 20 x 30 cm baking dish and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Lay out the eggplant slices on the trays and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake the eggplant for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium size pan. Gently saute the garlic for 1 minute. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Season to taste. Reduce the heat to medium low heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir the sauce occasionally and watch it doesn't stick. Lay one third of the eggplant, slightly overlapping in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spoon over a third of the sauce and sprinkle over one third of the basil leaves, one third of the mozzarella and one third of the parmesan. Repeat the layering two more times. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.
Sprinkle with baby basil leaves and leave for 15 - 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Baby carrots and heirloom beetroot

If you are a reader of my other blog, you would know that we are trying (learning, failing) to grow our own vegetables. We have a lot to learn, but we did manage to produce a few meals from our recent carrot and beetroot harvests.

While some of you may have thought our baby carrots inedible, they were not.

Here is the yummy Jamie Oliver recipe that I made with them.

Roasted Baby Carrots

serves 4

• 500 grams baby carrots (scrubbed and trimmed)
• 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (crushed)
• 1 handful of thyme leaves
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3/4 cup white wine
• salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Tear off 1 1/2 metres of aluminium foil and fold it in half to give double thickness. Place everything, except for the wine, into the middle of the foil. Bring up the sides of the foil and pour over the wine. Season to taste. Fold or scrunch the foil together to seal, place the parcel onto a tray and cook for 45 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

This recipe is basically Jamie's recipe from this book.

And with the last of our beetroot we made pink dip.

I call this dip, beetroot tzatziki, perhaps the beetroot should be grated and many people would argue that the beetroot should be roasted. Grate the beetroot or roast it if you prefer. This recipe is in our lives is because of my children. They were chatting away one day about the different types of dips you can eat.

When they mentioned 'pink dip' I quickly whipped some up for afternoon tea.

I puree the ingredients as there is a better chance of the children eating it. It's a texture thing and a little bit of a gimmick. However my daughter still won't eat it, even if it is pink!

Beetroot Tzatziki

(Pink Dip)

1 1/2 cups

• 400 grams beetroot (cooked and skinned)

• 1 clove garlic (crushed)
• 1 cup yoghurt

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

• salt and pepper

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and puree. Serve with pita bread or pita bread chips.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Don't feel like cooking?

This week has been busy, I have been feeling a little unwell and very tired. I did not want to cook. I usually end up cooking easy pasta meals when I have weeks like this.

This tuna pasta recipe I have been cooking forever, and it is one of my favourite easy dinner dishes. But two other pasta dishes that I often make from ingredients I have at hand, are Fettuccine Cabonara and Fettuccine alla Putanesca.

This week we ate these two yummy pasta dishes. One night my husband cooked, I cannot remember the last time he has cooked anything other than breakfast or the barbecue. One night we went out for dinner, again, not a regular occurrence in our house, it has probably been six months (at least) since we last went out to dinner as a family. And last night we had Indian takeaway. This is only the second time that we have bought takeaway in the 4 years that we have lived in this house. Usually I cook. This week (like I said) I did not want to cook.

Spaghetti with Tuna and Olives

serves 4-6

• 500 gram spaghetti
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion (finely diced)
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 1 x 185 gram tinned tuna (drained and flaked)

• 2 x 400 gram tinned tomatoes (chopped)

• 1 tablespoon tomato paste

• 1 bay leaf

• 2 tablespoons kalamata olives (roughly chopped)
• salt and pepper

• 2 tablespoons basil leaves (torn)

to serve

• parmesan cheese (grated)

Bring water to the boil in a large pot and cook the pasta until al dente.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and gently sauté the onion and garlic. When the onion is soft Add all of the remaining ingredients except the basil and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir through the basil and toss the sauce through the spaghetti. Serve immediately.

Fettuccine alla Putanesca

serves 4

• 350 grams fettuccine

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 red chillies (finely chopped)

• 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 1 x 440 gram tinned tomatoes

• 1/2 cup red wine

• 1 tablespoon tomato paste

• 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes (diced)

• 2 tablespoons kalamata olives (deseeded and chopped)
• 1 tablespoon anchovies (chopped)

• 2 teaspoon oregano (chopped)

• 1 teaspoon thyme (chopped)

• 2 tablespoons basil (chopped)
• salt and pepper

to serve

• parmesan cheese (grated)

Bring water to the boil in a large pot and cook the pasta until al dente.
Meanwhile in a large pan heat the oil and gently fry the garlic and chilli. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and wine, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the anchovies, sundried tomatoes, olives and herbs and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste. Toss the pasta through the sauce.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butterscotch Buttons

I first tried these yummy biscuits on my cousin's farm. They were so delicious that I poured myself another cup of tea, grabbed a pen and paper and copied out her recipe on the spot.

"Not only are they yummy, but they are so easy" my cousin had said. She was right.

Last week I went looking so something quick to make for morning tea, I remembered her words when I rediscovered this recipe hiding at the bottom of the pile. They were whipped up in minutes. The perfect 'last minute' biscuit recipe to have at hand.

Butterscotch Buttons

makes 24

• 125 grams butter (softened)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
•1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
• 1 tablespoon golden syrup
• 1 1/4 cup self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Prepare 2 biscuit trays. In a large bowl, beat the butter, vanilla, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour. Roll the mixture into level teaspoon size balls and place on the baking trays 5 cm apart. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jordanian Chicken in Pomegranate Sauce

I have spent the last few days sorting through boxes in our garage. There was much excitement when I found a couple of folders filled with old recipes. Some are recipes that I have loved and thought I had lost. Another folder held a pile of recipes that I had printed out from the Internet, when I first discovered it.

I also found my first recipe book, neatly written out by hand when I was 17 year old. It holds a collection of favourite dishes that I cooked when I first left home. I can't wait to try some of these recipes again and am looking forward to the memories that I will find with each mouthful. I also wonder at how my tastes have changed over the years.

This recipe is not one that I have cooked before, but one I found in the pile of recipes printed from the computer. On first discovering the possibilities of the Internet I went a little crazy for a few weeks and printed out a lot recipes that (at the time) were unavailable to me. This was one of them, however last night was the first time that I cooked it.

I really love (love) pomegranate molasses, so my husband and I both loved this from the first mouthful.

Needless to say the the leftovers disappeared to work again today.

Jordanian Chicken in Pomegranate Sauce

serves 4

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 kilograms chicken pieces

• 2 onions (diced)
• 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli

• 1/4 cup coriander leaves (chopped)

• 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

• 1 x 400 gram can diced tomatoes

• salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy based pot. Brown the chicken pieces in 2 batches and set aside. Add the diced onion and garlic to the pot and gently saute until soft. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the paprika and chilli and stir for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. Return the chicken to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

You could add a little more chilli than this, I have halved the amount of chilli from the original recipe because of our children. Not that it mattered, they do not love (love) pomegranate molasses and did not eat the sauce anyway. I served this with plain rice last night, but a pilau would have been better. Or better still serve this as part of a large Middle Eastern feast. Delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My first white loaf

After the immediate success of my first bread machine bread making experience, I decided I would wing it last week and attempted to make a rye loaf in my bread machine.

Despite the fantastic smells that filled my kitchen and a five hour wait, it was disaster. I used a different bread machine bread book and it just did not work. Today I went back to what I know and used the bread book that came with my machine to make a basic white loaf.

Now that's better.

Large Basic White Loaf

• 1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (I've kept mine in the freezer)

• 475 grams plain flour
• 2 teaspoons table salt

• 2 tablespoon butter
• 2 tablespoons raw sugar

• 350 ml water

Put the ingredients of your bread into the bread maker in the order of the ingredients list. Yeast first and water last. There is no need to mix. Press the menu button and select basic. Press the select button and select bake. Press start and walk away. When the beeper beeps to indicate that the bread is ready lift the lid immediately to remove the bread. Remember to wear oven mits and shake the pan several times to remove the bread. Place the bread on a wire rack to cool.


It was very yummy with my homemade strawberry jam.

As for the rye bread, I will try that again soon, but I will hand knead it instead.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All hail, kale

One month ago, I had never eaten kale. I had certainly never cooked kale. And to be honest, I don't think I even knew what kale looked like. I new that it was a green leafy vegetable, but that was the extent of my kale knowledge.

But recently, every new recipe book I looked at contained recipes for kale. I thought it was about time I bought some kale and tried it for myself.

This is the recipe that converted us instantly to kale lovers. (by us, I don't meant the children) It also converted us to the delights of brown rice. I have eaten yummy brown rice in healthy salads in healthy salad bars over the years, but my memories of cooking it at home were very bad. Has brown rice changed or is it me? I don't really want to go on about organics here, but I do believe that the organic brown rice that I've been buying is no comparison to the supermarket stuff.

We truly cannot get enough of this dish, I have cooked it 4 times in the last month and each time my husband quickly whisks off any leftovers to work and I am left wondering; where has it all gone?

This recipe has been adapted slightly from 'Notes from my Kitchen Table'.

Fried Brown Rice with Kale

serves 4

• 225 grams kale (washed, stems discarded and shredded)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 3 shallots (cut into 3 cm diagonal slices)
• 200 grams cooked brown rice (cooked weight)

• 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

Steam the kale for 7 minutes. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes before raising the heat to medium and adding the kale and shallots. Cook for 2 more minutes and add the rice. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the soy and sauce and cook for another minute. Serve immediately.

Simple, quick, easy, yummy and healthy. What's not to love. My husband has been eating it cold at work with his salad and I'd like to try adding a poached egg on top, to make the perfect lazy night dinner.

Do you eat kale? How do you cook it?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spooky Food - The Drinks

My cousin and I use to spend hot summer Saturday afternoons under the citrus trees in her backyard. With ginger ale or lemonade from the fridge we added freshly (and messily) squeezed oranges, mandarins and cumquat's. Picked straight from the trees that shaded us and hand squeezed directly into a large jug right there on the spot. It was always drunk immediately.

Pure bliss.

I am punch drunk on my 'carefree childhood in the seventies' memories. I'm sure we were wearing tiny floral hand sewn shorts and boob tubes!

But this has nothing to do with Halloween. Just a nice little story about my first punch making experiences.

The punch recipe (witches brew) that I make for Halloween is one I always use when making punch, usually for the kids birthday parties or school holiday treats. Hence the name 'go to punch' It has been adapted from a local recipe book.

The shrunken heads idea was discovered on Martha Stewart's website, while searching for inspiration for our first ever Spooky Dinner last year.

I double this recipe to fill my punch bowl.

Witches Brew with Shrunken Heads

Go-to Punch

(non- alcoholic)

makes 750 ml

• 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice

• 1 1/2 cups pineapple or orange juice

• 1 1/2 cups ginger ale

• 1 1/2 cups soda water

• ice cubes

Mix all of the ingredients together in a punch bowl and serve.

To make the
Shrunken Heads

• 1 cups lemon juice
• 1 tablespoons coarse salt

• 4 large granny smith apples (peeled, cored and cut in half lengthways)

• 16 whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Mix together lemon juice and salt in a medium size bowl. Using a sharp paring knife, carve a face, as desired, on the rounded side of each apple half. Place the apples in the lemon mixture for one minute, then transfer onto paper towel to drain. Put the apples, face-side up on the prepared baking tray and bake until the apples are dry and begin to brown around the edges. This will take about 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and press cloves into the 'eye sockets'. Make the punch in the punch bowl and float the shrunken heads on top.

And for the grown ups we serve Murky Merlot and Queasy Reisling.

Thanks again Martha

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More Spooky Food - Dessert

And for dessert at our Spooky Dinner we served: mud cake, eyeball jellies and snakes in slime

For the Mud Cake, I baked this recipe.

The jelly recipes have been adapted from Donna Hay's Kids (Annual #4) Magazine.

Eyeball Jellies

makes 8

• 2 x 85 gram packet red jelly crystals
• 4 white marshmallows (halved)

• 8 smarties

Make the jelly according to the
instructions on the packet. Divide the mixture into eight small cups or glasses and allow to cool for 5 minutes before putting into the fridge. Press one smartie into each marshmallow half to make an eye. When the jelly is half set (after about 1 hour in the fridge) gently place the eyeball on top of the jelly. Return to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until set.

Snakes in Slime

makes 8

• 2 x 85 gram packet green jelly crystals
• 8 snake lollies

Make the jelly according to the
instructions on the packet. Divide the mixture into eight small cups or glasses and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Gently place a snake into the jelly and put into the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or until set.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spooky Halloween Dinner

New traditions have been started in this house. Our spooky dinner on Halloween is one that we hosted for the first time last year and again earlier this week . I know for sure, that I will be cooking the same food next year, so I thought I'd better write it down.

My children have been talking about spooky food for over a month. There was no way we were having Halloween without goblin pies and bandaged fingers.

Here is our 'Spooky Dinner' menu

• sticky bat wings
• bandaged fingers or severed fingers
• slime pie
• goblin pies with blood sauce
• ribcage potatoes
• salad

• witches brew with shrunken heads
• murky merlot and queasy reisling

• mud cake
• eyeball jellies
• snakes in slime

Today I give you the recipes for our main meal.

Sticky Bat Wings

Honey and Soy Chicken Marinade

serves 6 - 8

• 1.8 kilograms chicken pieces (use chicken wings to make bat wings)

for the marinade

• 2 tablespoons honey

• 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
• 2 tablespoons
tomato ketchup
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)


Mix all of the marinade ingredients together and marinate the chicken pieces overnight.

To make
bat wings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and bake for 35 minutes. If you are using this marinade for other chicken pieces, I suggest that you cook drumsticks and thighs (with bones) for 45 - 55 minutes. If you are marinating chicken breasts or chicken thigh fillets I would cook them on the barbecue.

Bandaged Fingers

serves 4 - 6

• 12 chipolata sausages
• 3 tortillas (cut into 1 inch wide strips)
• tomato ketchup

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Oil a baking tray. Lay the sausages onto the tray and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. To serve, wrap the end of each sausage with a strip of tortilla and dollop a drop of tomato ketchup onto the other end.

This year we served severed fingers because I forgot to buy the tortillas.

Slime Pie


serves 6-8

• 3 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 leeks (chopped)

• 1 cup shallots (chopped – include some of the green tops)

• 800 grams spinach or
silverbeet (chopped)
• 1 cup dill (chopped)

• 1 cup flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

• 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

• salt and pepper

• 400 grams feta cheese (or 200 grams feta and 200 grams ricotta - crumbled)
• 4 eggs (lightly beaten)

• 16 sheets filo pastry
• 250 grams butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease a 30 x 18cm baking dish. Heat the oil in a large pot and gently
sauté the leeks and shallots until soft. Stir in the spinach and stir until wilted. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the dill, parsley, nutmeg, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the most of the liquid has evaporated and the spinach begins to stick to the pan. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs and feta.

Line the baking dish with 8 sheets of filo pastry, brushing each sheet with melted butter. Spoon in the spinach and feta mixture. Top with the remaining layers of filo pastry, once again, brushing each sheet with butter. Finish by brushing the top with butter. Cut a small slit into the top of the pastry and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown.

Goblin Face Pies with Blood Sauce

Mini Meat Pies


for the filling

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 1 onion (finely diced)

• 1 garlic clove (crushed)

• 500 grams mince

• 150 grams mushrooms (finely chopped)

• 1/2 cup red wine

• 1/2 cup beef stock

• 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce

• 1 tablespoon tomato paste

• 1 bay leaf

• salt and pepper

• 1 tablespoon cornfour
• 2 tablespoons water

for the pastry

• 5 sheets of store-bought shortcrust pastry (thawed)

• 1 egg (lightly beaten)

to serve

• tomato ketchup

Preheat oven to 180 degrees and oil muffin trays. Heat the oil in heavy based pot and gently saute the onions until tender. Add the garlic and then the beef mince and mushrooms. Cook until brown. Add the red wine, beef stock, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, bay leaf and season to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes. In a cup, mix the cornflour and water until well combined. Add to the mince mixture and increase the heat. Stir through and cook until thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Use a small plate or cup to cut around for to make the pie shells. Line the muffin trays with the cut pastry and fill with the cooled meat filling. Using a smaller cup template, cut out the lids of the pies. Use a paring knife to cut out the eyes and mouths of the lids. Top each pie with it's goblin face lid. Brush the pastry with egg and bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden. Serve with tomato ketchup (blood sauce)

Editors note: I have updated this recipe (31/10/12) I found these were a little dry last year, so if you have made them, you might want to try them again. I think that this years batch of goblin face pies (much requested in this house) are an improvement.

Ribcage Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes

serves 6

• 6 large potatoes (peeled and cut in half
• 50 grams butter

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Oil a large baking tray. Place each potato half on a chopping board, flat side down, ready to cut. Starting from one end of the potato, make slits in each potato by cutting almost all the way through the potato. Continue along the potato, making cuts about 4 mm apart. Carefully place the potatoes on the baking tray. Dot each potato with butter and drizzle with olive oil. season with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crispy. During the cooking time, baste the potatoes with the butter and oil and shuffle them about so they don't stick, but not in the first 15 minutes of cooking or they will break up. Serve

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easy Beef Chilli

I have had a cooking day today. This morning I made a big pot of this easy beef chilli. I always make a large quantity and put it into serving size containers to freeze.

It is the beef chilli that I use for our taco's and nacho's. These are popular requests in our house and I am happy have the beef chilli at hand for a healthy dinner that can be made in minutes. I find it good for the kids, as it is not spicy. And as another one of my base recipes, I often throw in whatever is in my fridge: grated or pureed vegetables, a spoonful of chutney or sometimes chopped herbs.

I have been cooking this recipe ever since I left home at seventeen, it probably came from a Womans Weekly magazine.

Easy Beef Chilli

serves 4-6

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 onions (diced)
• 300g beef mince
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• salt and pepper
• 1 x 440g can red kidney beans (drained)
• 1 x 440g can tomatoes
• 1/4 cup tomato paste
• 2 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and gently saute the onion until soft. Add the mince and stir until browned. Add the cumin and season to taste. Add the remaining ingredients and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.Take a look here to see who else is participating in blogtoberfest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Polenta with fresh corn

(this image is from here)

Recently I came across a recipe for soft polenta with fresh corn. I love soft polenta and really liked the idea of adding vegetables to it. It was something I had never thought of before. By the time I got around to cooking the polenta I couldn't remember where I had seen the recipe, so I have just adjusted my usual polenta recipe.

Here is what I did. It was so delicious.

Soft Polenta with Fresh Corn

serves 4
• 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
• 1 cups polenta

• good pinch of salt and pepper
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan

• 1 cob fresh corn (kernels removed and blanched)

• 2 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoon butter

In a large heavy based saucepan bring the chicken stock to the boil. Before adding the polenta, reduce the heat to medium low so the water is a steady simmer. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Make sure that you continue stirring in the same direction for the duration of the cooking time. If you have instant polenta this will only take 5 minutes, if not it will take 40-45 minutes before the polenta is ready. When cooked, the polenta will easily tear away from the side of the pot when stirred. Season to taste. Stir in the cheese, corn, cream and butter and heat through. Serve immediately.


I have also listed the recipe I usually use for polenta.

Soft Polenta

serves 4

• 4 1/2 cups chicken stock

• 1 cups polenta (instant or fine)

• good pinch of salt and pepper
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan
• 1 tablespoon butter

In a large heavy based saucepan bring the chicken stock to the boil. Before adding the polenta, reduce the heat to medium low so the water is a steady simmer. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Make sure that you continue stirring in the same direction for the duration of the cooking time. If you have instant polenta this will only take 5 minutes, if not it will take 40-45 minutes before the polenta is ready. When cooked, the polenta will easily tear away from the side of the pot when stirred. Season to taste and stir through the cheese and butter.
For soft polenta, serve immediately.

To make grilled polenta. Grease a shallow tray and spread out the polenta evenly. When it is cold, cut it into serving pieces, brush with oil and grill until golden, about 8 minutes each side. Serve immediately.

Take a look here to see who else is participating in blogtoberfest.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


My mum made moussaka (moos-sah-KAH) often when I was growing up. I have always loved it.

I have been making my moussaka this way for at least 20 years. I have a friend who comes from Crete, he tells me that it is not moussaka unless it contains zucchini. I tried his recipe but prefer it only with the eggplant and potato. I guess that's because it was the way my mother cooked it and the way my Greek friend in London cooked it. So again, I cook a recipe for reasons of nostalgia.

You will notice in my method that I bake the eggplant and the potatoes in the oven instead of frying them in oil on the stove top. Hopefully there aren't too many Greek Yiayia's throwing their hands in the air in disgust at this procedure. You can fry them in oil if you prefer, but this is what I do.

This way of cooking came about for two reasons. Firstly, I was trying to reduce the amount of oil used (therefore making it healthier?) Eggplants are like a sponge when it comes to oil. Secondly, I'm lazy. My way is not as messy and it is quicker. While the vegetables bake away I can get started on on the meat sauce.


serves 6-8

• 2 large aubergines (sliced)

• 2 large or 3 small potatoes (sliced)

• 1 tablespoons butter

• 1 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 onions (sliced)
• 2 garlic cloves (crushed)

• 500 grams lamb mince

• 1 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

• 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

• salt and pepper
• 1 x 400 gram tin of tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste

bechamel sauce

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/3 cup flour

• 2 cups milk

• pinch nutmeg
• salt and pepper
• 1 egg (lightly beaten)


• 4 tables grated cheddar cheese

• 4 tables breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 28 x 32 cm lasagne dish. Bake the potatoes and aubergines for 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Heat the butter and oil in heavy based pot and gently saute the onions until tender. Add the garlic and then the lamb mince and cook until brown. Add the herbs, spices and seasonings. Stir in the
tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes.

To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. Gradually add the milk and stir slowly until thickened. Add the nutmeg and season to taste. Remove from the heat and stir through the egg. Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs and a small bowl.

To assemble: layer - half the aubergine, half the mince, all of the potato, half of the cheese and breadcrumb mixture, the remaining mince, the remaining eggplant and then bechamel sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top of the moussaka. Cook for 45 minutes.
Take a look here to see who else is participating in blogtoberfest.
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