Friday, December 31, 2010


Lately my interest in gardening has surpassed my interest in cooking. It's not that I don't enjoy cooking what I grow, it's just that gardening is a whole new area of investigation for me with so so many things to learn. I feel like I'm in gardening primary school: my attempts are wonky and haphazard, but the enthusiasm is there.

So far there has been a successful (but short lived) crop of broadbeans, a successful but small crop of beetroot, coriander that bolted after a week, second-attempt basil, a few handfuls of peas, a few handfuls of beans and some deformed carrots. In the more prolific pile there is cucumber which is yielding about 3 fully grown cucumbers a day (I have no idea what to do with this much cucumber), zucchini plants which are growing rapidly and have given a few zucchinis a week so far (many more to come I think), six heads of broccoli of which the first was consumed last night (although about half an hour was spent picking slugs off it first) and 21 tomato plants which are threatening to take over the world (the tomatoes are still small and green but in a month I think we will have boxes upon boxes of them).

Every morning after wrenching myself out of bed I stumble onto the back deck and water the seedlings. Then I put my gumboots on and wander around the garden whilst rubbing sleep out of my eyes. I prod and poke all the bushes to see if anything has happened over night. By the time I've finished my garden observation rounds, I'm pretty much awake.

Gardening is a rather addictive hobby, especially when you start to get the rewards. I can't stop thinking about it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Using the Fridge

My sister has been staying with us for the six weeks. Since she's been here I've been a lot more organised in planning meals. The best method I've found for doing this is using our old, slightly dodgy refridgerator as a whiteboard for figuring out what to use each ingredient we bought from the market for. This makes sure we don't go hungry (or have to run to the supermarket) during the week and also makes sure nothing we buy goes to waste. Shortly after getting back from the market and stocking up on vegies etc, we plan out what we'll use them for. Andrew usually cooks one or two days a week and my sister one day (for now!). Staples we usually buy to complement the vegetables are plain flour, oil, spices, grains (there's a good grain shop at the market - we go there for chickpeas, lentils, black beans, barley, slivered almonds, cashews), a can of tomatoes, tofu, rice noodles, milk and occasionally cheese. We buy a different spice every week and we've now built up a cupboard full of pretty much every spice you could need to make a delicious dish out of a couple of vegetables. By doing this we've been able to keep our grocery budget to roughly $20 - 25 a week each (so around $75 for the three of us).

We also use the fridge to record our shopping list and everyone can add to it. We all know how to make bread now so if one of us mixes together some dough, another one can come along and see that it's ready to go into the oven and take care of it. It's a collaborative process. We usually have a loaf ready or one on the way. We buy a kilo of flour for 95c so one loaf is worth about 40c and lasts us a few days. Bread baking - a skill for life!

Unfortunately not many fascinating, shareable recipes come out of this process, but we do eat a lot of fresh vegetables and it's so cheap. Someone at work recently made a snarky comment to me about boring ladies who plan their meals in advance and how dull their lives must be - I just laughed to myself. I don't feel bored at all - we are all happy and nourished!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fruit Wine Update

A few months ago I made some pomegranate wine as part of an introduction to winemaking short course.

I left it to settle for a month whilst I was in New York, and drank it when I got back.

It was...well, it was a first attempt. I didn't really enjoy it that much, Andrew did, but it was better than cask wine.

The glass on the left is less cloudy than the one on the right as it had been filtered more carefully, and the glass on the right was poured closer to the end of a bottle.

If I ever have a glut of fruit to dispose of, I'll make fruit wine again. can wait.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Standard Dinners

I have a list of standard dinners I make on weeknights. Most of the time I like cooking dishes that require very little thinking. The meal above appears about once a week - rice made in a rice cooker (with an egg and some soy sauce stirred in once it's cooked), some steamed or stir fried green vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, bok choi and asparagus are on high rotation) and some marinated sliced tofu rolled in some seasoned flour and then pan fried. It's a rather delicious combination and something I can happily make even after 5 minutes of staring grumpily at the fridge with the door open and no motivation to do anything.

Here's a list of other dishes that come under my category of 'standard dinners'.

Barley salad - accompanied with some roasted mushrooms
Beetroot & lentil salad
Noodle salad
Noodle stirfry with tin of mock duck and assorted vegetables
Sweet potato dumplings and sweet potato noodles
Crunchy roast potatoes with some panfried fish* and steamed green vegetables
Potato and dill salad
Thai green curry with tofu, zucchini and eggplant
Brown rice salad with tahini sauce, toasted almonds and some steamed greens
Black bean soup with capsicum and corn
Lentil bolognaise
Oven-full of mixed roasted vegetables and some homemade satay sauce
Green vegetable & barley soup
(* rare. I think I've bought fish once in the last 6 months - and it was that basa fillet frozen crap that costs about 10 dollars a kilo).

We're not vegetarian but we barely ever buy meat - maybe once a month. It's not good value for money and it makes a mess.

It's funny how your 'standard dinners' change over time. Six years ago I always made this chicken and egg on rice dish (Japanese style), mushroom pizza, broth with soba noodles, and pasta with tomato, tuna, zucchini and carrot sauce. For some reason I'd never dream of making any of theses things now.

Have you got any 'standard dinners' you'd like to share with me? I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cafe Gitane, Nolita, New York

The waitresses wear matching cute green dresses as uniforms, there's a mix of Moroccan/French inspired dishes and some from elsewhere such as the tuna ceviche with cabbage, coriander, rice noodles, toasted sesame and jalapenos pictured above, and they offer great coffee and lovely organic teas (they come with sugar syrup for sweetening!) - but at Cafe Gitane you come for the atmosphere. So far, my favourite place to eat in New York.

Cafe Gitane
242 Mott Street
New York, New York

Saturday, June 19, 2010

MOMA lunch, New York

I can't really complain. I'm in New York for a month studying all the museums and galleries - what a hard life! However, a month without cooking is a long month indeed. Especially since there are some amazing supermarkets here offering a cook's paradise of ingredients. Sigh. I'm staying in a college room and I have to eat every meal for the month either out at a restaurant or cafe or in the college cafeteria. I don't like having so little control over what I eat!

Below is the lunch I had yesterday in the cafe of the Museum of Modern Art - beetroot with goat cheese, calamari with black chickpeas, and braised artichokes with steamed spinach.

Lunch today was sandwiches from Pret a Manger eaten in sunny and lively Bryant Park - what a treat! Bryant Park is at the rear of the New York Public Library at at 12.30pm was absolutely flooded with local New Yorkers with their packed lunches or sandwiches from nearby shops (Pret a Manger was a madhouse!). The atmosphere was perfect - hundreds of moveable seats and tables encourage everyone to make the most of the sunny park rather than eat at their desks.

(Bryant Park, 2 hours before the insane rush)

In general, food here is very affordable, perhaps slightly cheaper than Melbourne. I'm fast developing an addiction to garlic bagels at breakfast time. But for $1.60, can you really go wrong?!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vegan Raspberry Muffins

My god. I've finally finished uni for the semester! I can't even explain what a relief it is. Here is a little recipe I made today for you all. It's a vegan muffin recipe. I used half wholemeal flour and added some lucuma powder to make myself feel better about eating a million of them. It's my first time using banana as an egg substitute and it worked really well. Banana is also super good for you, so that's just an added bonus. I should be making some more bread in the next few days, once I get my hands on some more fresh yeast. The only place I've found it is at the Queen Vic markets which is all the way in the city.

1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons lucuma powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 medium banana
1/2 vegetable oil
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
2 cups raspberries (thawed, if frozen)

Firstly, put your oven on to 350F (180C). Grease some muffin trays (I used mini muffin trays, ended up filling about four!)
Sift the flours, lucuma powder, brown sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl.
In another bowl, mash up the banana really well. Add the oil and milk to this and stir together.
Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix together.
Fold the raspberries through.
Fill the muffin tins to about 3/4 full. Place an almond on the top of each muffin.
Place in the oven and cook for about 20 mins. The time may vary depending on the size of your muffins. To test if done, poke a center muffin with a skewer or knife. It's don't if it comes out clean.
Take them out of the oven and let rest for a few minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Don't wait till they're cool though, eat them hot!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Garden: Before and After

We are turning our overgrown, messy backyard into a series of vegie patches. Here are some photos from today.

We've been hacking at a mysterious lump (it seems to have been created by many years of grass clippings dumped on top of each other) trying to get all the weeds out of it. Then we plan to grow pumpkins and zucchinis on the lump, come spring.

Broad beans are growing quickly and I've got some seedlings coming up in seedling trays.

I'm planning to turn the old driveway into garden beds.

We plan to get some fruit trees too - in pots in case we ever can't renew our lease, so we can bring them with us to wherever we go next!

I'll put more photos up in a few months - hopefully by then there'll be quite a transformation!

Rhubarb Crumble

My sister has been trying to get me to go to the Abbotsford Farmers' Market for about three years now. Or more, I'm not entirely sure. The whole purpose of the exercise (or at least how she sold it to me) was to check out the 'boys in hats and scarves'. Well, alluring as those wool-clad boys might have been, I just couldn't bring myself to get up before about 11am on a Saturday, and after showering, breakfast eating, transportation etc there is no way I could possibly make it to the market by 1pm, when it closes.

My sister went frequently though, and although singing its praises (and recounting sightings of 'boys with hats and scarves' - hello sister, I love you) I still never bothered to get around to it. Until a couple of weeks ago. My obsession with vegetables is getting increasingly all-pervasive and I jumped at the idea of riding our bikes along to Yarra to check out some organic or direct-from-farmer vegies and other produce. We only managed to get there by closing time, 1pm, but there was still plenty of stuff around. I'm not on the hunt for a boy-with-hat-and-scarf anymore, but even so it looked like most of the guys there were less 'pick-up-girls-in-dresses-on-bicycles' stage and more 'strap-a-baby-to-my-chest-and-pick-up-some-organic-milk' stage.

I bought some lovely saffron pine mushrooms, fresh and crunchy broccoli and a bunch of the wonderful, wonderful 'Di's Rhubarb'. Those who know this rhubarb will remember that it comes with a very strict warning that you are to cook it with NO WATER and RAW SUGAR ONLY. Seriously. You disobey Di at your own risk. She'll ask you about the next time you buy it (as she did yesterday, when I went to the market a second time) and I doubt she'd let you off easily if you lied to her about it. NO WATER.

I'm not sure what horrible fate would befall you if you did add water, but Di's Rhubarb Crumble recipe is so good I wouldn't bother giving it a go. Just follow the recipe and you will have the most delicious, comforting winter dessert ever. Best to use Di's Rhubarb from the Farmers' market though, I can't vouch for other rhubarb but the rhubarb I saw at the supermarket yesterday was a limp, shrivelled, sorry sight.

Di's Rhubarb Crumble

400g rhubarb, topped and tailed and cut into 2cm pieces
350g apples, peeled and chopped
125g raw sugar (Di suggests 250g but it's just way too much)

175g plain flour
100g sugar
125g butter, chopped
100g gingernut biscuits
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger powder

Place rhubarb, apples and raw sugar in a pot. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until all fruit has fallen apart and become syrupy. NO WATER, ALRIGHT?

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, butter, gingernut biscuits, cinnamon, ginger. Either combine in food processor or do what I did and bash the biscuits to crumbs using a the pestle from a mortar and pestle. Scrunch mixture with fingers until butter is combined and you have buttery crumbs.

Pour fruit mix into baking dish, cover with crumble mix and bake at 180 degrees C for roughly 40 minutes, or until bubbly and golden.

Yumbo. Serves about 6 people.

Other market finds which have been turned into delicious, bursting-with-freshness dishes:

- Lightly steamed broccoli with homemade aioli

- Tomatoes sliced and served in alternating layers with creamy fior di latte cheese

- Pan fried black beans and kale

- Caramelised roasted butternut pumpkin

- Tiny kipfler potatoes as a salad with mayonnaise and loads of dill

The next Abbotsford Farmers' Market is on Saturday, 12th of June at the Collingwood Children's Farm, St. Heliers St Abbotsford. See you there! Does anyone know of any other wonderful Farmers' Markets in Melbourne?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fruit Wine

I have started a short course in winemaking at Epping Tafe (NMIT) - 6 weeks on Wednesday nights. It's really interesting and great to refresh my mind with some chemistry! We were all given the task of making some wine from fruit juice at home, to then be taken into the lab and test and look for faults etc. I decided to use pomegranate juice (I did so as it has a similar sugar level to grape juice - sugar level is important in wine making!) and started it yesterday.

It started bubbling away overnight. I am being very overprotective of it, fussing over it trying to keep it warm! Camila - are you interested in knitting it a little coat?!

Depending on how this goes I might start making my own fruit wines regularly. There really is nothing to it so far. Fruit juice, wine making yeast, and a flagon.

In other news, the Farmers Market at the Collingwood Children's Farm and at the Abbotsford Convent is just about the best thing ever. Get there and get some of Di's rhubarb!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lovely Bread!

Yay! My second attempt at bread baking turned out quite nicely. I managed to find some fresh yeast at the Queen Vic Market. It was surprisingly cheap, just under $2 for 200grams, when the recipe only calls for 8g! I'm not going to post the recipe because I'm going to be posting a lot from the same book. I'll do a post about the book later, as it's really really really good. I'm excited about learning all the ins and outs of bread baking. When Uni semester finishes in a few weeks I'll have more free time to practice. I need to start using proper baking flour though, I think I saw some at the market when I was there so I might need to take another trip over.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


As it was Dutch orange day on Sunday I thought it might be a good opportunity to make poffertjes. I have been in love with these little pancakes since I was young. I eat them at every festival I go to, at every opportunity. I bought one of the special pans to cook them in a few years ago. It came with a pre-made mixture to use and that's as far as I went in my cooking of them. When the mixture ran out I put the pan at the back of the cupboard for a rainy day. That day has come! and will come again! These tasted exactly like the ones from the stalls. This recipe is a combination of a few and isn't really exact so feel free to play around. I'm trying to make a vegan version that is just as good and will post it as soon as it appears to me.

I'd also like to tell everyone that I've started a personal blog. It'd be cool if you could go over and have a look! LINK!


2 2/3 cups plan flour
1 1/4 cup milk
One packet of dried yeast (the packets I use are 7g)
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 beaten egg
a pinch of salt
15g melted butter

Heat the milk till it is lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and the yeast. Let it sit for ten minutes or so. If it's getting frothy, you're onto a good thing.
Put the flour in a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Pour the yeast/milk mixture in and stir. When combined, add the egg and butter (beaten egg, melted butter.)
Stir till it looks sort of ok.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel. It's best to use a clean one, but don't worry too much. Like, don't go to the trouble of washing anything. Put the covered bowl in front of a heater or in the sun depending on climate. Leave for one hour, probably wise to turn it half way if it's in front of a heater.
After an hour it should have at least doubled in size. Yay! Stir it again to get the air out.
Put the poffertjes pan on the heat and give it a bit of a grease. Using a teaspoon, half fill the holes. When bubbles are coming though, flip them over. When both sides are brown, take them out and put them on a plate. I used some skewers that came with the pan the turn them, it worked pretty well. Oh, and the first batch didn't cook very well (as usual) and tasted really yeasty. Don't let that deter you! The rest will be magic!
Put some knobs of butter on top and cover in icing sugar.
Eat as many as will fit in your stomach.
Tip: they reheat really well in the microwave!

Happy poffertjing!

Friday, April 23, 2010


I sometimes get random pikelet cravings. The problem with pikelet cravings is that they are so easy and quick to make that it's hard not the give in. This is just a basic little recipe that produces a nice, consistent batter. I overcooked these a little because I was scared they weren't cooking all the way through, so they ended up being a little tough, don't make the same mistake!

Cinnamon Pikelets

Mix 1cup self raising flour with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Make a well in the centre.
In another bowl, add 2/3cup milk to 1 beaten egg. Pour this into the well. Using a wooden spoon, gradually beat in the flour. Add some cinnamon to the mix, however much you like, maybe about 2 teaspoons?
Brush frying pan with a little butter.
When hot, place spoonfuls of mixture in frying pan. When bubbles appear on the surface, turn with a spatular. Allow to brown on other side and cook through.
Brush frying pan with butter between batches.
Lift onto cake cooler covered with a clean cloth to keep them soft.
Serve with butter, jam, and/or whipped cream.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Basic Bread

Although Anna is most definitely the bread baker of the two of us (what with her fancy ratios and all), I've decided that it's a skill I must learn. I've dabbled with bread making before but it's mainly been sweet rolls and pizza dough. I've been spurred along this journey by this book from this lovely lady, and it's where this recipe comes from. It's about homesteading and the importance of learning country skills. Each chapter is about a different skill, such as growing vegetables, cook, sewing, keeping animals etc, with each chapter combining an amusing anecdote from the author and ideas for how you can incorporate these skills into your life. I raced through this book from start to finish in a day and now I desperately need some angora rabbits and a banjo!
My first attempt at bread wasn't that bad. It was just a basic white sandwich bread. I ate most of it slathered in butter, but it wasn't the nicest when toasted. I think I should look into using live yeast. After this attempt I went out and purchased a large, intensive bread making book full of recipes, tips and troubleshooting. I'll be sure to keep you all informed as to my progress, and please let me know how this recipe goes for you if you try it!

2 cups warm water
1 packet dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 cups unbleached white flour

In a large bowl, combine the water and yeast. Once the yeast has dissolved, add the honey. Leave it for about 10 minutes until it starts frothing.
Mix in the vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast. Mix this with a wooden spoon for about five minutes. Keep adding flour until you have a ball of dough that will stay together without being too sticky.
Place on a floured surface and kneed until you can poke it and it bounces back. This will take a while.
Grease a clean bowl with the butter and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for one and a half hours.
Punch down the dough and kneed a little more. When it's back to how it looked before, rip it in half, shape into loaves and place in greased bread pans. Cover these with a damp cloth and leave for another hour.
Brush some melted butter over the loaves and place in a 375F oven. Bake for about 30 minutes (mine took a little longer.) When they are brownish on top and a bit hard it's time to take them out. Let them sit for a bit before transferring them to a cooling rack. Cover in butter and eat!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Plum Tea Cake

I baked this cake to celebrate / commemorate / commiserate the end of the Easter holidays. 3 days off from work = 5 day weekend! It was a slow, relaxed weekend with large stretches of time spent tirelessly digging garden beds in a backyard overrun with weeds.

This morning I decided to wander aimlessly around Preston looking for food tidbits. I ended up with all sorts of vegies, grains, some green curry paste and dried oyster mushrooms. I finished the trip with a quick circuit of Aldi to hunt for bargains. I mean, you don't go to Aldi for anything specific - unless of course you were stopping by to quickly pick up a mountain bike or a watering can. They had a kilo of plums for 2 dollars, so I grabbed those, as well as some 69c sliced beetroot, a 99c bag of spinach and some unsalted butter. I forgot to pick up a plastic bag at the start of the queue (not being Aldi initiated) so ended up having to cram all the things I bought into my handbag quickly whilst being glared at by the people queueing behind me. Argh.

Anyway, the plums. I made a cake using Michael Ruhlman's pound cake ratio, but browned the butter first and used soft brown sugar. I tossed some white choc chips in at the end because we had them in the cupboard. I layered the surface with the cut plums and sprinkled them with brown sugar so they would caramelise in the oven. Sticky plum syrup pooled in the crevices where the stone of the fruits once were. The plums were not anywhere near as delicious as the plums I used to make plumble, but they were half the price. And why is it a tea cake? Well, Andrew called it a tea cake and when I asked him why he said 'I don't know, because it's brown.' Indeed it was brown, a deep, rich brown.

Plum Tea Cake

8 plums, halved and stoned
150g flour
150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
150g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 cup white choc chips (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat an oven to 170 degrees C.

Melt butter in a small pan. Keep cooking it until it turns a golden brown colour, not too dark. Turn off heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Beat the soft brown sugar into the butter in a mixing bowl, until a smooth mixture is achieved. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in baking powder, flour and salt. Stir through choc chips (if using). Butter a square cake tin and line with baking paper (I layered some long strips of baking paper under the main sheet to over-hang the tin, to ease the cake out after baking - see photo). Spoon cake batter into tin, sit the 16 plum halves on top in a 4 by 4 arrangement. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 mins - keep checking when it gets close to an hour to see when the centre has cooked through. Leave to cool for 15 mins, then carefully lift out of cake tin using the strips of baking paper.

Serves 8.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I am never making a roast chicken again.

Sure, it tasted pretty good, but it took hours, dirtied every dish I own with a film of grease and ended up tasting ... like chicken. By the time it was ready the kitchen was a disaster, and I was too tired to enjoy eating it.

The roasted onions, garlic, beetroot, sweet potato and potato and the steamed grean beans were much more interesting.

The leftovers today for lunch, however, were rather tasty - livened up with a bit of whole-egg mayonaisse and Maille dijon mustard.

mushroom tangle, barley greens & plumble

I recently discovered that the Preston Market is open on Friday nights 'til 8pm. This means that if I get out of work on time and don't dally about, I can make it to the market by around 6pm, pick up some fresh vegetables and tidbits for the weekend, and not have to deal with the soul-testing, all-encompassing throng of market-goers that descend on the place on a Saturday morning. It also means that I can make a delicious meal to celebrate Friday evening with pretty much any ingredient I've been distracted by dreaming about all day at work that day. Last Friday, I had been daydreaming about mushrooms. (Really - who daydreams about mushrooms? Is that a common occurence? I assume other people daydream about things like pina coladas on tropical islands and adventurous holidays to far off places and meeting cool people at hot parties and what not. But I'm sitting there in the office thinking about shiitakes. Strange or not? Let me know.)

Anyway, at the market I got a bunch of spinach, 3/4 kilo of dark red plums, enoki mushrooms, black fungus mushrooms (dried, from the Asian grocery store), field mushrooms, another Asian mushroom I don't know the name of (pictured below, right, next to the enokis - can you tell me the name if you know it) and some dried shiitakes.

What resulted was a sumptuous, buttery tangle of fungus, which I served with a barley risotto strewn with a whole bunch of spinach. The mushrooms were indescribably richly flavoured, overwhelmingly umami, meaty and moreish. The barley served as a filling and subtle sidedish to balance out the richness of the mushrooms.

Mushroom tangle

As many different types of mushrooms as you like, chopped, soaked if dried, I used:

1 handful of dried shiitakes, soaked in boiling water for 15 mins
1 handful of black fungus, soaked in boiling water for 15 mins and chopped finely
1 large field mushroom, sliced
1 packet of enokis, base chopped off and separated into strings
a bunch of another Asian mushroom (name pending!), separated

50g butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
white pepper

Prepare all mushrooms for frying. Add half the butter to the pan and melt on high heat. Add in mushrooms, one variety at a time, stirring well. Fry, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through and wilted. Stir through soy sauce and other half of butter, turn off heat. Sprinkle with white pepper. Serve with barley greens. Serves 2-4, depending on love of mushrooms.

Barley greens

1 bunch spinach, washed, separated into leaves
1 cup barley
2 cloves sliced garlic
black pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
Boiling water
1 teaspoon oil

Soak the barley in boiling water half an hour in advance. Have a kettle of boiled water nearby. Heat the oil in a large pot (one that has a lid) and stir in the barley. Add the garlic, crushed stock cube and some black pepper and stir. Add hot water, one cup at time, stirring well whilst it soaks into the barley and evaporates (similar to making a risotto). Once the barley is almost soft, stir in the spinach and a little extra water and turn off the heat. Put the lid on the pot and leave for 5 minutes whilst the spinach steams in the heat of the barley. Take lid off and stir well. Serves 2 - 4.


As dessert had been requested for the evening, I made an easy crumble with the plums - simply core and slice the plums into quarters (I used about 5 plums / 750 g), put them in a baking dish and stir in a couple of tablespoons of soft brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. In a pan, melt around 40 grams of butter, cook until brown. Stir in a cup of oats. Spoon oat and butter mixture over plums and then cook in a 200 degree C oven for around half an hour (or until plums are saucy and soft and oats are brown).

Serves 4. Andrew gave this the wonderful name, Plumble. I was too busy devouring the sticky, unctuous red sauce that the plums had exuded at the time to notice. Apparently he said it about 5 times before I looked up and giggled about it. Welcome, Plumble! I will be making you again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

If I ever wonder...

...why I'm obsessive about cooking, why I always over-cater, or why I always cook more dishes than necessary, I just have to look to my father. Describing his cooking skills as 'survival only' (pffft!), he whips up breakfasts involving fluffy banana pancakes, crispy bacon with maple syrup and rum-spiked fruit salad, and cooks his own farewell dinners consisting of homemade green pesto toasts; lentil, prawn and chorizo stew; salmon croquettes, tamarind-oyster sauce chicken wings, Texan-style pork ribs, grilled home-grown eggplant, rice and green salad.

Hey, Dad, I'll miss you when you go to Texas! Please bring back ridiculously decadent recipes involving bacon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caramelised Red Onion and Feta Quiche

I found this in my drafts folder and thought, 'Hey! I never posted that!'.

This quiche was awesomely delicious but it never set properly (poor cream to egg ratio, I believe). The red onions were sliced thinly and cooked on a low heat for a very, very (painstakingly) long time until caramelised, and mixed with beaten eggs, chopped feta, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

I think I need to make this again!

Friday Night Pasta

Once I had tidied up my office on Friday afternoon, flicked off the powerswitches to my computer and printer and turned off the lights, I couldn't help but secretly jump up and down a few times. I was experiencing a mild case of Friday evening euphoria. I giggled to myself as I locked my office door and got the lift down to the ground floor. I could almost hear music that wasn't there! Next stop - King and Godfrey on Lygon Street to buy a bottle of Pinot Noir and something delicious to turn in to dinner. I pretty much skipped there!

I ended up with a 2008 Underground Pinot Noir from the Mornington Peninsula (a delicious bargain at $15), two delicate, milky balls of buffalo mozzarella, four slices of local Italian-style prosciutto, and some De Cecco Orecchiette (little ears!) pasta.

With this I invented a very delicious, simple and indulgent version of carbonara. I have no idea whether it resembles anything traditional. I don't care. It was perfect.

Friday Carbonara - Serves 2

250 g Orecchiette pasta
100 - 150g prosciutto, cut into small strips
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thin cream
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoons salt
olive oil and salt for pasta water
2 small buffalo mozzarella balls
Extra pepper to serve

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons cracked pepper.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot (use one that has a fitted lid, for later) of salted water (be generous with the salt!) and a glug of olive oil. In a small pan, heat a dash of olive oil and pan fry the prosciutto until crispy. Set aside. When pasta is ready, drain and immediately return to pot. Stir through egg mixture, fit lid onto pot, wrap pot tightly with tea towel (to further keep heat in) and shake gently. Leave for 3 or 4 minutes, shaking pot occasionally. Whilst waiting, cut buffalo mozzarella into thin slices. After 4 minutes, stir through prosciutto. Dish up onto places and then arrange mozzarella slices of the top. Sprinkle with extra pepper.

Serve with delicious wine and some extra jumping around with Friday excitement.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Film Shoot Catering

On a recent Sunday, my house became inhabited by a film crew making a video clip for the semi-hiatused folk-pop-rock sweethearts Duckdive.

(The film crew takes over the living room!)

Let me make it clear to you from the get-go. I have no film making desire. I do not understand how films are made to any degree of clarity, and if anyone attempts to explain I usually wave them off and say 'I don't want the magic ruined!'. So, When it was suggested that Duckdive's first video clip be made at my house, it was not a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the workings of a film crew that got me excited. It was the possibility of cooking for these people!

I decided to work to the incredibly low budget of $20 - not including kitchen staples I already had such as flour, oil etc. Whilst the cool cats set up their equipment, turned my bedroom into a film set, blacked out windows and viewed and re-viewed takes in quiet determination, I was in the kitchen making the snacks.

I learned many things about films over those two days (whether I wanted to or not!). That they take an incredibly long time to make, and you have to be incredibly patient. That there is a lot of waiting around, filling in time until it's your turn to do your little bit of magic. And that groups of people, no matter how big or small, humble or important, can always be placated with food.

Golden cinnamon cookies

Chilli, olive, bacon and herb muffins

Chorizo, chickpea and vegetable soup

Sourdough sesame rolls (based on this recipe, minus the dutch oven and cut into eight pieces)

By far the most popular were the cinnamon cookies, which were munched enthusiastically over the two days of filming. But it all went down well. So there you go - if you aren't feeling particularly creative at the moment, but want to conjure up the feeling of being involved in dynamic, creative things, I'd suggest hosting a film crew at your house and cooking for them. All the vicarious excitement with only a smidgeon of the effort!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crazy Corn Quinoa!!

This is one of those throw together meals that actually worked. I've been feeling quite ill recently, which hasn't been helped by my diet which has consisted mainly of macaroni cheese and pie. This is super duper healthy and fast and fun and yummy. I don't really have a recipe for it, so I'll just sort of lay out the facts and you can follow them how you like.

So, I began by cooking the quinoa. Actually I lie, it's not quinoa. It's actually this neat grain mix I found at the health food store. It's a mix of different types of quinoa and amaranth. I've been using it a lot lately. I find it to be much tastier than the grains on their own.

Anyway, next I chopped up some green beans, a head of broccoli, half a red bell pepper, and two cobs of corn, into small pieces. I put these in a pan with some cumin, turmeric, chili and a little oil. While this as cooking, I toasted some pine nuts. When everything was nice I added the pine nuts and a hell of a lot of sesame seeds to the vegies and let everything mingle for a while. Just before I was ready to eat, I stirred through the grain mix and ta da, dinner is done!

You can use almost any veggies for this. I just happened to love corn and have a lot of it in the fridge. The corn and the pine nuts worked really well together though. xx

Monday, March 8, 2010

Choc Chip Cookies

This week my swing dancing class is having "Cake Break". What this essentially means is that after having our normal class, we all sit around and eat baked goods. This special event has mainly been created because our teacher, Steph, enjoys created excuses to bake. This sits very well with me and has given me the push I needed to get back into the kitchen. I wasn't really sure what to bake. I needed something that was pretty quick to make (as I have a ton of school work to catch up on), easy to transport and easy to share. The transport issue was extremely important due to the fact that it's been hailing like crazy the last few days. I eventually decided on the always perfect chocolate chip cookie. Practically everyone in the world likes them and they're pretty hard to stuff up.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar (I just use whatever is in the cupboard, dark brown sugar with some white sugar is nice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 whole egg + 1 yolk
2 packets of chocolate chips (I used one packet of Cadbury milk chocolate and one packet of Nestle white chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line baking trays with paper.

Mix flour, bicarb soda and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar.

Add the vanilla and eggs to the wet mixture and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and stir till just mixed.

Stir in the chips till it looks about right.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays. I usually squish them down a little with a fork, but I don't actually think this does much because of all the chips! Cook them for about fifteen minutes. I have to watch mine because my oven is screwed and doesn't heat evenly. For instance, this time I took out the bottom tray at 15 minutes and the top tray didn't come out till 30 minutes! Whatever tickles your fancy.

Take them out and EAT! They're not the prettiest things, but who has time to look when they're stuffing as many as they can in their mouth. yum yum x