Thursday, September 29, 2011

Did you say 'mock' chicken?

There is not much call for 'mock' anything these days. But this is a recipe I could not do without. My Nana made this whenever there was a party or family gathering - always served with jatz crackers.
Often when we came to stay on the weekends at her farm, there would be a jar of it in the fridge. I loved it best spread on my toast for breakfast. I still do.

When my Nana died, their was no discussion: along with cakes and finger sandwiches, there would be bowls of mock chicken and jatz at her wake.

Nobody ate it. They didn't understand. As the crowds dwindled in the late afternoon, our immediate family sat at a long table with six bowls of mock chicken and jatz all to ourselves.

I've been making it a bit lately. When I am cooking it, the smells in my own kitchen transport me back to her tiny, cottage kitchen.

It is like she is very close by.

Mock Chicken

makes 1 cup

• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 cup tomatoes (diced)
• 1 onion (diced)

• 3 slices bacon (diced)

• 3 eggs (lightly beaten)

• salt and pepper
• 1 tablespoons cheddar cheese (grated)

Heat the butter in a large frying pan and gently sauté the tomatoes, onion and bacon. When cooked, add the eggs, stirring constantly until they are cooked. Season to taste and stir in the cheese, until melted.

Either serve immediately on hot toast or keep in the fridge as a dip.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There's something fishy around here

I found some small, forgotten fish at the back of my freezer. I couldn't remember how long it had been since my husband had caught them, so I decided to use them to make stock. It turned out that the flavour of the fish was fine and I used the cooked flesh to make fish cakes for dinner.

We don't like wasted food around this house.

Fish Stock

makes approximately 2 litres

• 2 kilo. fish bones, heads or carcasses (well washed and gills removed)
• 2 onions (roughly chopped)
• 2 leeks (roughly chopped)
• 2 carrots (roughly chopped)
• 2 stalks celery (roughly chopped)
• 4 bay leaves
• 4 stalks parsley
• 4 stalks thyme
• 10 black peppercorns
• 750 ml white wine
• 2 litres water

Put all of the ingredients into a large stockpot and slowly bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim the surface while the stock is simmering if necessary. Strain. This can be refrigerated for 1 day or frozen for 2 months.

This fish cake recipe has been adapted from a Dutch Jewish recipe (viskoekjes) The original recipe had used twice as much fish, but I did not have that much at hand. The original recipe had rolled the fish patties in matzah meal, but again I only had fresh breadcrumbs in the house.

We loved them just as I have written here. In fact my daughter talked about them for days. The flavour reminded me of the fish cakes that my Nana used to make, so I have taken liberty to call them Nana's Fish Cakes.

Nana's Fish Cakes

serves 4-6

for the fish cakes

• 1 onion (finely diced)

• 50 grams butter

• 500 grams white fish fillets (cooked and flaked)

• 2 eggs (lightly beaten)

• 600 grams potatoes (boiled and mashed)

• 1 tablespoon parsley

• a pinch nutmeg

• salt and pepper

• fresh breadcrumbs to coat

• oil to shallow fry

lemon wedges to serve

Melt the butter in a small frying pan and gently saute the onions until soft. Leave to cool. Once cooled, mix all of the ingredients for the fish cakes together, refrigerate for 30 minutes. When you are ready to cook them form the fish mixture into small patties and coat them in the breadcrumbs. Heat oil in a large frying pan and shallow fry the fish cakes for 3-4 minutes on both sides until brown. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lamb mince and spaghetti

I grew up on spaghetti and mince. My Nana's spaghetti and mince, she always made a big batch of it on the farm when we came to stay for the holidays. We would eat it for dinner and then again for breakfast on toast the next day.

Many years ago I discovered this recipe, I think it might be of Lebanese origin? I can't remember. It too, is comfort food. When I cooked it, I wondered at children on the other side of the world, was this cooked by their grandmothers for them too?

My children love it. It is easy to make and a good alternative to spaghetti bolognese. And just like spaghetti bolognese you can puree some vegetables and hide them in the sauce!

Lamb Spaghetti and Mince

serves 6-8

• 500 grams spaghetti (broken into 10cm pieces)
• 500 grams lamb mince
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion (finely diced)
• 1/4 cup pine nuts
• 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 teaspoons pepper
• 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1 x 450 gram tinned tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 cup water
• 3 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease large (28 x 32 cm) baking dish. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Meanwhile heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until just soft. Add the lamb and brown lightly. Add the pine nuts, salt, pepper and cinnamon and mix well. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, add the spaghetti to the sauce and mix well. Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake in oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet Strawberry Pancakes

This recipe comes from an unusual source.

It was given to me by a guy I used to work with. I never had much to do with him, he worked in a different department and our lives and interests where very different. I never expected to getting recipes or cooking tips from him.

But one day we found ourselves at the lunch table together. He was telling me about the strawberry pancakes that he had made for his children that weekend. He was so animated when telling me about making these pancakes. The kids stirring the batter and chopping the strawberries, his older son, flipping the pancakes as they bubbled. Thick spongy pancakes to be served with great dollops of sweetened thick cream.

I told him he must give me the recipe and he happily wrote it out on the spot. He was excited to share it.

So I thank you Micheal, wherever you are. I know that you would not mind me spreading the word on 'your' yummy strawberry pancakes.

Strawberry Pancakes 

serves 6  

for the pancakes

• 3 cups self-raising flour
• 3 tablespoons caster sugar
• 4 tablespoons honey

• 2 eggs
• 2 1/4 cups milk

• 1 cup strawberries (diced)
• butter or oil for frying

to serve

• 300 ml cream (whipped and sweetened with 3 teaspoons caster sugar)
• 250 grams strawberries (quartered)

Preheat oven to 100 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar honey, eggs and milk to make a smooth batter. Fold the strawberries into the mixture. Heat a non-stick fry pan to medium heat. Add the butter or oil. To make each pancake, spoon a couple of tablespoons into the center of the fry pan and leave to cook until bubbles start to form on the surface of the pancake. When they start to burst, flip the pancake, cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Continue this process until all of the pancakes are cooked. Keep the cooked pancakes warm on a plate in the oven. Serve with the whipped cream and strawberries.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I have been getting lots of kids cookbooks from the library lately. As a result I have been cooking lots of child friendly meals. I have been cooking some of our old favourites and playing around with some new ideas.

My own children are getting older, and I have started to think about cooking for other people's children. There will be more friends who come for lunch or dinner and eventually there will be sleepovers. As my cousins children get older, I can't wait for them to come for a visit over the school holidays.

I want any child to get excited by what goes onto their plate.

Over the last few weeks we have been 'road testing' homemade chicken nuggets. My children have never eaten nuggets that weren't homemade. But usually I cheat. I buy crumbed chicken schnitzels at our local butcher, cut them in strips and call them chicken nuggets.

I have decided to do it properly and have played around with spices and herbs in the mix and tried different types of crumbs. But this is what I have come up with as 'the best' for our family.

I prefered them plainer and made with ingredients that I always have in my fridge or pantry. My husband and I are still debating about the cheddar cheese. He found the nuggets with it, too cheesy, but the children cleared the plate. So I have made the cheddar cheese optional, to suit your tastes. At our house, I will be adding cheddar if I serve the nuggets with tomato sauce and not adding it if I am serving them with yoghurt sauce.

The wedges were just something that happened and stuck. I made them for a quick midweek meal and my daughter could not get enough of them. So now when I mention chicken nuggets, there are always wedges. And a salad.

I have added a favourite yoghurt dipping sauce recipe too. Of course there are so many other sauces to dip your nuggets into. My son likes tomato sauce, but my daughter prefers the yoghurt sauce.

Chicken Nuggets

serves 4

• 500 grams chicken breast (about 3 breasts – cut into 3 x 5 cm strips)

for the batter

• 1/3 cup plain flour

• 1/3 cup milk
 • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
• salt and pepper

for the crumb mixture

• 2 1/4 cups cornflake crumbs

• 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
- optional
• 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

• olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a baking tray with olive oil. Mix all of the batter ingredients together and set aside. Combine all of the crumb ingredients and set aside. Dip the chicken into the batter and then the crumb mixture. Lay onto the greased tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes.

Garlic and Herb Wedges

serves 4

• 1 kilogram new potatoes (washed and cut lengthways into 6 wedges)

• 3 - 4 garlic cloves (smashed and roughly chopped into 3-4 pieces)

• 2 - 3 tablespoons fresh herbs - rosemary and thyme (roughly chopped)

• olive oil
• salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mixed all of the ingredients well in a large baking dish, making sure the potatoes are well coated with oil. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes .

I usually toss the potatoes gently with an egg flip a few times during baking to ensure that the wedges are browning all over.

Lemon Yogurt Sauce

• 3/4 cup natural yoghurt
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Mix all of the ingredients and serve. Make this the day before if you can to let the flavours develop.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Collected and shared

I picked up this book at the library last week. The author has collected recipes from friends and family from around the world and put into this cute little book - hence the name.

We have already cooked:

• hardly baked 'kladdkaka', a small Swedish chocolate cake made by Johanna

• cabbage stew, like lasagne with cabbage, a family recipe handed down to Hege's from her father

• leek pie, a recipe Meri knows by heart
• chicken, pomegrante and walnut casserole, Noorshin's traditional Persian recipe

I absolutely love food with a story, with a history. To me, that is true comfort food. Cook food with love. Share food with love.

I really like Kristin's (the author) recipe swap idea. The perfect dinner party. Everyone who comes along brings one of their favourite dishes to share and the recipe for everyone to take home with them.

On a similar theme, I was reading about a jam/preserve making parties recently. In not one, but two different publications. I started thinking back to when I lived in Brisbane years ago. A friend and I would buy a huge box of strawberries, mid season and get together to make luscious strawberry jam. We did this a few years running. I remember us in our old kitchen, the many windows flung open to the warm breezes and scent of jasmine that climbed the fence below.

And that smell of strawberry jam!

I didn't realise until now, how important those days were.....

Anyone for jam making?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flea market finds...

Thanks to my Mum, these couple of goodies turned up at my house this week. The bread maker was $5:00 and the separate bread machine book found at another garage sale was $1:00.

So if it works, and it should, we will be eating freshly baked bread around here very soon.


Go here, to see what other treasures have been found this week

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My husband's chocolate cake

This is the cake that my husband wooed me with when we were 'just friends'. I was impressed.

Anyone that has ever tasted this cake has asked for the recipe. It's so quick to make, we have often taken it to last minute dinner parties or whipped it up to take on an impromptu picnic. We love it iced with coffee icing or halved and filled with cherries and whipped cream for a simple Black Forest Cake.

If you have a mixmaster (a Kitchen Aid or the like) you can put all of the ingredients in the one bowl and mix - that simple. However if you are like me, I am still using the $17.00 hand held electric egg beaters that I bought when I left home 20 years ago, then follow my method below.


I made this cake Friday afternoon for my daughters birthday. As always it was delicious.

Mr Moo's Chocolate Cake

makes one cake

• 125 grams butter (softened)

• 1 1/2 cups caster sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 3 tablespoons cocoa

• 1 3/4 cup self raising flour

• 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

• 1 cup milk

chocolate butter icing

• 50 grams butter (softened)
• 2 cups icing sugar (sifted)

2 tablespoons cocoa (sifted)
• 1 teas. vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon boiling water

coffee butter icing

• 50 grams butter (softened)
• 2 cups icing sugar (sifted)

• 1 teas. vanilla extract

• 1 heaped teaspoon instant coffee powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of boiling water
(well dissolved)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and flour a deep 22 cm round cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and cocoa and continue to mix. Sift in the flour and the bicarbonate soda, stir until well combined. Add the milk and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes. Leave the cake to sit for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool.

To make the butter icing, sift the icing sugar (and cocoa - if making chocolate icing) into a bowl. Work in the softened butter with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and boiling water (mixed with coffee - if making coffee icing) Beat until smooth. Spread onto cooled cupcakes. It will take approximately 30 minutes for the icing to set.

This quantity of icing should cover the top and sides of the cake. I prefer my home baked cakes with just the icing on the top. Any extra icing I put in the freezer for the next time I bake cupcakes. At the moment I have a small amount of chocolate, hot pink, sky blue and now coffee icing in my freezer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Birthday party cupcakes

(these cupcakes were the one's we made for my aunt's 70th birthday in April of this year)

I secretly love cupcakes. The yummiest I have ever tasted were from a little bakery in Brisbane. I tasted them only once at a party, years ago, but I have never forgotten their soft texture and sweet vanilla flavour.

This is the best that I have come up with so far. It is possibly a Donna Hay recipe, I'm not sure. I have cooked these cupcakes for every one of my children's birthday parties over the last six years.

The recipe states that it makes 24 cupcakes. That's true if you are making these for a mother's morning tea or grown-up event. If I am making them for a children's party, I get almost double that, I always reduce the size of the cupcakes, as everyone one knows: the kids just eat the icing. I put the remaining 20 odd cupcakes in the freezer, ready treats for the kids over the weeks following the party.


makes approximately 24

• 375 grams butter (softened)
• 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 6 eggs

• 3 cups plain flour

• 1 tablespoon baking powder

butter icing

• 50 grams butter (softened)
• 2 cups icing sugar (sifted)

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• a little boiling water

food colouring of your choice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Prepare a 12 hole patty cake tin with papers. In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, two at a time, beating well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until well combined. Fill the patty papers 3/4 full and bake for 35 minutes.

To make the butter icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Work in the softened butter with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and boiling water. Beat until smooth. Carefully add food colouring to get the colour required. Spread onto cooled cupcakes. It will take approximately 30 minutes for the icing to set.

Fairy Cupcakes

To make fairy cupcakes: add 1/4 cup sprinkles (hundreds and thousands) to the cupcake mixture. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A greek inspired barbecue

The first couple of days of Spring where all sunshine and beautiful blue skies. My husband and I were looking forward to some fresh flavours and planned a simple barbecue for dinner. Cooking some of our old favourites, I set to work. However by mid afternoon the spring weather had disappeared, it was raining and grey. I was wearing a tracksuit and had turned on the heater.

It didn't matter, we barbecued our chops in the rain and poured a glass of wine.

Even though we didn't get to eat outdoors as planned, we were excited about the warm months to come. We are looking forward to easy, impromptu barbecues with mediterranean flavours that we love so much. Here the recipes that we cooked on the weekend... like I said, some old favourites.

Lemon and Garlic Lamb Marinade

serve 6

• 1 kilogram lamb chops

• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup white wine

• 1 lemon (juiced)

• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)

• 2 teaspoons dried oregano

• 2 dried or 4 fresh bay leaves (broken)
• salt and pepper

to serve

• lemon wedges

Mix all of the ingredients together and marinate the lamb overnight. Barbecue and serve.


• 25o grams thick Greek yoghurt

• 1 continental cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumber's (peeled, de-seeded, grated)
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 garlic cloves (peeled and roughly chopped)

• pinch of salt

• 1 tablespoon dill (finely chopped)

Squeeze the grated cucumber of any excess water and spread it out on a clean tea towel to remove as much moisture as possible. Leave for 15 minutes. In a mortar and pestle crush the garlic with a pinch of salt. Mix all of the ingredients together.

If you can, it is best to make the tzatziki the day before, to let the flavours develop.

Greek Baked Vegetables

serves 4-6

• 4 courgettes (cut into chunks)

• 450 grams potatoes (cut into large chunks)

• 1 red pepper (cut into chunks)
• 1 red onion (roughly chopped)

• 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
• 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

• 1 x 400 gram tin tomatoes (chopped)
• 150 ml olive oil

• salt and pepper
• 1 teaspoon dried greek oregano

to serve

• 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley (chopped)

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Place all the ingredients except the oregano into a large baking dish. Mix well. Sprinkle with the oregano. Bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Greek Country Salad

serves 4-6

• 4 tomatoes (cut into 6-8 wedges)
• 1 large continental cucumber (cubed)

• 1 red onion (sliced)
• 2 red pepper (roughly chopped)

• 1 cup kalamata olives
• 2 cups cos lettuce (roughly torn)

• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I love the warmth that a large bowl of goulash can give in the dead of winter. Meaty, hearty, reassuring. I realise that today is the first day of spring, not mid winter, but I have decided to post this recipe anyway. After all, some of my readers are soon coming into autumn. We have enjoyed it a couple of times over our short Queensland winter.

When I was travelling through Europe in my twenties I met some friends in Austria who persuaded me to do things I wouldn't usually do. Austria to me was: theatre, palaces, galleries and most importantly, coffee and cake.

But one of the absolute highlights from those 12 weeks travelling though Europe was when we went white water rafting. Something I would never, ever choose to do. I am no adrenalin junkie. Two things made that day very special. Before we got to the craziness of the river rapids we glided down a peaceful river as if gliding through a postcard. We sat still, in a tiny yellow canoe on a narrow river of glass. Our boat snaked it's way through emerald green hills dotted with tiny gingerbread cottage farmhouses. Cows mooed, birds sung and leaves ruffled in the gentle breeze. I remember it as paradise.

With the buzz of white water rafting over, we begun our steep climb back up to the showers and to the small restaurant near where our bus had parked. The once shining sun had disappeared behind dark clouds. Unnoticed by us, as we rode the gauntlet of rocks and waves. As we stepped slowly up the hill the clouds grew darker. Thunder shook the valley and lightening streaked the sky. Exhausted, I entered the showers and had one of the longest and hottest showers I can ever remember having while travelling in Europe. When I came out of the shower block it was pitch black, it was 3:00 in the afternoon. I quickly entered the restaurant as heavy drops of rain began to fall and I ordered a bowl of goulash.

I don't need to tell you that was the best goulash I have even eaten. Warm and nourished, I sat and watch the rain pelting hard on the glass wall of the restaurant. I felt safe while the thunder bellowed and the lightening flashed. Safe and happy and full in every way, with my large steaming bowl of goulash.

Many years ago I played around with different goulash recipes to come up with this recipe. This is the closest that I can come to that goulash eaten on that day. I hope you enjoy it too.


serves 4-6

• 1 kilo chuck steak (cut into 4cm pieces)
• 1 1/2 tables. olive oil
• 2 onions (chopped)
• 1 clove garlic (crushed)
• 1/4 cup sweet hungarian paprika
• 1/2 teas. caraway seeds
• 900 ml beef stock
• 2 large potatoes (peeled and cut into 4 cm pieces)
• 1/2 teas marjoram (chopped)
• 1 x 400 grams tinned tomatoes (chopped)
• 2 green peppers (sliced)

to serve

• crusty bread

In a heavy casserole dish, heat the oil and gently saute the onion and garlic until soft and lightly coloured. Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika. Stir until the onions are well coated and return to the heat. Add the beef, caraway seeds and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour. Add the potatoes, marjoram, tomatoes and peppers and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for a further 45 minutes until the potatoes and meat are tender. Season to taste. Serve with buttered noodles and crusty bread.
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