Monday, 30 January 2012

Cashew and Vegetable Stir-Fry

The weather's cooled down a bit so we're having a couple of BBQ-free days :) This is a simple vegan version of the usual chicken and broc stir fry since we've not been particularly active and don't really need the meat. Just substituted some carrots and baby sweetcorn for the chicken, egg-fried the rice, and added some extra cashews for more protein. I'm still poorly so super-husband cooked this one, and he very cleverly came up with a way of not burning the garlic and ginger - he fried them first for a minute in the vegetable oil, then removed them, stir-fried the rest of the vegetables in the flavoured oil, and added the ginger and garlic again at the end. Really tasty!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

BBQd Beetroot and Feta

I often roast beetroot in the oven, add some feta at the last minute, and toss it in a salad with leaves and puy lentils. Tonight the SO put the beetroot cubes in foil parcels on the BBQ and they came out splendidly. He perhaps added the feta a tad early, as you can see from its slightly mangled appearance! Cous-cous with raisins and some chopped olives, sundried tomatoes and skinned, roasted red peppers made up the accompaniment. Just in time to eat while playing some turns on the online Race for the Galaxy with friends waking up in Cambridge :)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 7: Beef Skewers

Another day at home, still a bit ill :-/ Fortunately the super-husband had time to pop to the butcher's and buy some nice honey-glazed beef skewers, which BBQd a treat! They were well-marinaded so plain white rice and a simple cucumber and feta salad were fine accompaniments. (Super-husband is into his Thai-Greek fusion food ;)

Friday, 27 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 6: BBQ'd Aubergines

After a meat-heavy Australia Day BBQ, this vegan meal was a great contrast. We cut one really large aubergine into thick slices, brushed it with olive oil, ground coriander, cumin and black pepper, and BBQd it for 7-8 minutes each side, with the lid closed. They came out unbelievably tender, with lovely grill stripes and a deliciously smoky flavour. Some cous-cous with apricots and a simple tomato salad were all we needed to go alongside.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 5: Australia Day BBQ!

I picked a great week to start this challenge, because Thursday is the most iconic of BBQ days, Australia Day! Sadly I have caught a cold (from someone at work who always comes in when they're ill, grrrrrr...) so spent most of this week with an increasingly sore throat, and on Australia Day itself could not summon the energy to cook anything. Luckily my lovely Perthian family were hosting a BBQ, complete with paddling-pool full of water to sit in when you get too hot - very much appreciated when it's 42 C! Everyone brought something delicious to BBQ - the super-husband picked up some chicken at the butchers' and one of my cousins brought patties shaped like Australia :)

I wish I'd taken a photo of the spread of food - there were some epic salads, including a pear & feta one which I must try at home, and many of the ingredients were grown fresh in the very garden in which we were relaxing. Still I did manage to get this photo of my auntie, as we played the traditional family Pineapple Game. You have to pay a unit of currency ($, £, A$, depending on where you are!) and then guess how many leaves the pineapple head has. We all massively overestimated this one! Just 99 leaves, mean guess was at 135!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 4: Mushroom, Ricotta and Prosciutto Calzone

I bought some large field mushrooms in the market at the weekend, thinking we'd perhaps marinade them and have them on toasted buns with some cheese. But I'm a bit under the weather at the moment so quite forgot to put the marinade on, and they were looking quite sad when I got home, so I knew they wouldn't last much longer in the fridge. Some friends at work were asking me today how I come up with my recipes, and this was a classic example. The thought process went somewhat along the lines of

juicy bbq'd mushrooms -- yum but plain -- inna bun? -- no time to cook buns -- besides I suck at making buns -- salad? -- hot mushrooms make leaves wilt -- what else do I have? -- ooh, ricotta! -- ricotta-stuffed mushrooms? -- what is this, the 70s? -- would go so well in cannelloni -- but I can't use the oven -- what can I put them in? -- pizza? -- they would go very dry -- calzone??

And at that point I felt I was on to something, so I switched the laptop on and googled for 'bbq calzone' recipes, as I'd never made one before, let alone made one on the barbie. I found this hilarious American youtube video where they make a calzone that would quintuple your risk of pancreatic cancer in a single mouthful. But it had great tips for the basic method, and after another foray into the fridge and storecupboard I was ready to get going. This is enough for two; we doubled it so we'd have lunch ready for another day. I'm sure you could use any fillings you like, but this is what we made.


  • Your favourite pizza dough
  • 4 large field mushrooms
  • 3 generous tbsp of tomato puree
  • 150g ricotta or mozzarella cheese
  • a small handful of parsley
  • a roasted red pepper, deskinned
  • 3 slices of prosciutto or spicy salami
  • salt n pepper n flour n olive oil

Let the dough rise up for 15-60  minutes after kneading - longer time will give you better flavour and airier crust. Meanwhile, grill or bbq the mushrooms until tender and juicy, then cut into fat slices. Finely chop the parsley and combine with the cheese, then season well with salt and pepper. Tear the red pepper into strips. Heat a pizza stone on your bbq - or get the flat plate hot but indirectly heated.

When ready, roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a 30cm x 30cm square piece. Leaving an inch gap around the edge, spread the tomato puree evenly over the surface. On the half closest to you, lay the mushroom slices down, then the pepper strips, then the cheese mixture, and finally cover with slices of prosciutto. Fold the other half over the toppings toward you, then pinch closed around the edges,  making sure it's a good seal. Get a giant spatula, breadboard or plate, and flour well, then put the calzone on and transfer to an again well-floured pizza stone. Cook for 15 minutes on the first side, then 10 on the second, then leave for 10 minutes to rest. If you don't, you will end up with explosive hot sauces going everywhere, and the flavours will be too hot to taste properly. In the meantime you can make a nice salad to go alongside :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 3: Pork Chop and Sweet Potato Wedges with Apricot BBQ Sauce

Stone fruit are great at this time of year, but even I was challenged to use up a whole kilogram of apricots - but at $3 they were too much of a bargain to ignore. Eventually I got round to making something of them - a sweet and acid barbecue sauce which worked perfectly with a juicy pork chop and yummy toasted sweet potatoes. The key to the pork is to barbecue for just a few minutes each side, and stop as soon as the juices are no longer red. With the sweet potatoes, roast them indirectly for twenty minutes before turning on to a hot flat plate to brown up. The barbecue sauce takes an hour to make so it's a good idea to make it well ahead, or just have a starter ready to take the edge of your hunger off.


  • 1 kg apricots, pitted and halved
  • 2 large tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour, stirring every fifteen minutes. Once it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, it's ready. Strain it through a sieve, pushing the semi-liquid through with a large metal spoon and scraping the underside of the sieve every so often. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks.

Monday, 23 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 2: Fresh Pittas, Cold Lamb, Beetroot Tzatziki

Followed the recipe I used to make in Cambridge, but on this side of the planet we're very happy to eat the lamb cold and the pitta fresh off the barbie. A little sliced avocado on the side and it's a delicious fast meal post-Zumba. And as always, I love the colour of this tzatziki! The pitta is fast and easy to make - it must be as my husband had the flat rounds of dough waiting to go on the barbie when I got home ;) This is a recipe for eight hand-size pittas.


  • 275 ml warm water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g organic wholemeal bread flour
  • 200g organic white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

Either put the ingredients into a breadmaker for half an hour of dough cycle, or combine the ingredients in a large bowl and knead for ten minutes. Turn out on to a well-floured surface and divide in half, then again, then again, so you have eight pieces. Roll each piece out until it is about 5mm thick. Cover the pittas with a damp tea towel, preferably not all on top of each other so that they have space to rise. Leave for 15 minutes to rise a little then place on a medium-hot barbecue flat plate and close the lid; they should take about 2 minutes each side. Cover with the tea towel again if you're not eating them straight away.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

BBQ Challenge Week: Day 1: Lamb and Red Peppers

Yesterday we got a great deal at the butcher's, 2kg of lamb chops for $20. We froze half of them, and planned to bbq the rest; we could eat them hot off the barbie and cold later in the week. They're a forequarter cut so have a fair amount of challenge in the eating, although the meat is perfectly delicious and tender. But it put me off trying any kind of complex coating since that would make it too difficult to tear into with your teeth, which is what you really want to do with a cut like this.

Sides were simply peppers cut in half and bbq-grilled until tender and charred around the edges, a quick blend of hummus, a dollop of yoghurt, half a pitta, and some shredded lettuce. So it only took about 15 minutes to prepare everything, which was great timing as we were hungry after getting back from watching a football game (I know, what's happening to me here? :)

BBQ Challenge Week

As the weather here really begins to heat up, I've noticed that our house can cope reasonably well, especially on the ground floor. The top floor can become uninhabitable in the evenings, but usually by around 9pm, with all the windows open, we can get back to outdoor temperature. (Although this week, it's forecast to hit 40C, so outdoor nighttime temperature is still probably going to be totally unlivable!)

Last week when I got home from work, I went ahead with a plan to cook a few things that involved the oven, and used it continuously for about an hour and a half. By the time I was finished cooking, I was drenched in sweat and tempted to put the AC on. I looked at the numbers and realised that over that time, our 2kW oven would have pumped 10 MJ of energy into the kitchen, enough to raise our whole open-plan area by 80 C, if of course we hadn't been temporarily confining its effects to the oven, and ventilating the area*.

So, this inspired me to plan our meals around the outdoor barbecue, where we will be able to dump all of our waste heat straight into the atmosphere. No better for the environment, but much more pleasant for us in the house!

I set a few rules to the challenge:
Super-husband gets started on the challenge!
  1. No use of the indoor oven, whatsoever;
  2. Hob use allowed for boiling, and making sauces, but no more than one burner at a time;
  3. Breadmaker allowed since we don't have an outdoor power point, and the BBQ oven temperature is too variable for bread (at my current skill level).
  4. Salads and other cold things of course allowed - it's more of a 'no oven' week than 'must barbecue' week :) But I like the latter name better.
Let's see how the week goes!

* For the interested reader, I calculated this back-of-the-envelope style mostly using unit analysis to get all the terms on the right sides. I knew I'd need the specific heat capacity of air, which I got from wikipedia, about 1000 J kg-1 K-1. Our ground floor has a volume of around 6m x 6m x 3m ~ 100m3, and air has a density of 1.225 kg m-3 at sea level, so our ground floor has roughly 125 kg of air in it (kinda cool to know that). Our oven is actually 2.5kW, but given that it wouldn't have to run at full blast for the full hour and a half, because the oven is fairly well-insulated, I generously knocked off 500W. The energy it input is power x time, = 2000 W (=J s-1) * (1.5 * 60 * 60)s ~ 10 000 000 J, i.e. 10 MJ. So, assuming all air is trapped, and all heat from the oven dissipates into said air, the temperature rise of the air in our kitchen can be calculated as:
10 000 000 J
1000 J kg-1 K-1 * 125 kg
which is 80K.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cold Radish Leaf Gazpacho

The radishes we bought at the market came with a fantastic head of spicy bristly leaves, crying out to be used in something refreshing and exciting. They were too prickly to be used raw; even as I washed them, my hands began to burn from their tiny spines. So I followed a method for making chilled watercress soup, adapting it to what I had to hand. I popped the yoghurt-less base in the fridge, and it really came in handy later in the week.


  • the leaves of a large bunch of radishes
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 5 spring onions, cleaned and tailed
  • one medium white potato
  • half a glass of white wine
  • half a chicken stock cube
  • three bay leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • strong Greek natural yoghurt

Thoroughly wash the radish leaves and blanch in boiling water for thirty seconds. Remove and leave to drain in a colander - don't worry about running any cold water over them. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and roughly chop the spring onions, and cube the potato. Fry the vegetables in the butter for a few minutes, until the onions have softened and begun to caramelise. Add the white wine, half a stock cube, the bay leaves, and enough hot water to cover - about 500ml. Simmer for ten minutes, until the potato is tender. Return the radish leaves to the pan and puree with a hand blender. Taste and season. Chill thoroughly, for at least 6 hours, preferably for 24-48 hours. Add more water if necessary, then stir through the yoghurt and serve.


It's definitely heating up for summer! My Indian friends gave me this great recipe for a drink that keeps you cool, and replaces salt lost from sweating. It's called chaas, and the savoury ingredients may initially intimidate you, but I suggest making a small amount, very cold, and see if you like it. I love it :)


  • 2 generous tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400ml cold water
  • a handful of ice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed, toasted cumin seeds (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass and whisk until combined. Drink cold or keep for up to a couple of days.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Prosciutto, Avocado and Egg Salad

Always wonderful to come home and find something like this waiting for you :) Rocket, avocado, prosciutto, perfectly-cooked eggs and lovely sprouting seeds tossed together in a mustardy sauce, with a pumpkin scone I prepared earlier ready for slicing in the background - probably the last one until autumn, as the pumpkins seem to lose all flavour in the summer, and this one had to be heavily spiked with thyme and pepper to give it enough flavour.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Vegan Curries

Hmmm, I need inspiration. Even my curries are starting to repeat themselves! I tried yellow split peas in this dal, instead of my more usual red lentils... but I don't know if it's the variant I was using, or my cooking method, but they never really went sweet and tasty, just stayed quite 'raw'-tasting and transitioned from hard and uncooked to watery and falling apart in an abrupt and unsatisfactory way. Despite that, I made an excellent rescue effort, frying the spices, adding the lentils and some pureed pumpkin, and perking it up with a few tsp of salt and sugar. Topped with the usual perfectly crisped onions, it almost tasted right, but I think I will stick to red lentils until I can buy a pressure-cooker, which was the recommendation of one of my Indian friends.

The hot and sour aubergine curry was absolutely delicious as always, and my naan turned out quite well considering I made them in less than half an hour.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Well, if my recipes haven't improved much in the last year, my photographs certainly have! This is almost identical to my original recipe, but I didn't pre-steam the broccolli, just sliced it more thinly and stir-fried it with the garlic, ginger and sliced baby sweet corn before returning the chicken to the pan and bubbling with the sauce. I also served this over rice, rather than udon. Ooh and I tossed in a lovely handful of toasted cashew nuts at the last minute.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sophie's BBQ'd Potatoes

This is a great way of preparing potatoes for the barbie, although you may have to allow a potato or two for wastage if you don't get the temperature exactly right :)
A little charcoal is good for you!


  • 4-5 potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly slices
  • 4-5 sprigs of rosemary

Cut the potatoes into large pieces width-ways and parboil, then cool and slice into thick pieces. Lay them out on a large piece of aluminum foil, and glug over a bit of olive oil, the garlic and the rosemary. Combine gently and then put another piece of foil over the top, and fold over the edges, so you have a neat flat parcel. Roast on the barbeque for 10 minutes per side, checking each time to make sure the potatoes aren't burning (too much).
Sophie's Pots with BBQ'd barramundi and a simple salsa.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Pumpkin and Red Pepper Laksah

Yet another slight variant on the lovely Nigel Laksah, which I've become very quick at cooking now that I don't worry so much about what ingredients I use. Today I used less pumpkin, as it seems to be a bit out of season and not as tasty as in the winter months, and added some cooked red peppers as I had them to hand. The key steps are whizzing up a curry paste with whatever you have to hand, e.g. garlic, ginger, chillis, lemongrass, coriander roots; frying it with any uncooked vegetables you're using, add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and tomatoes and then finally any cooked vegetables, meat or herbs you're using. And one brick of noodles really is enough for two people!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Beetroot and Egg Salad with Smoked Trout

My lovely husband made this, following the recipe I blogged months ago from Edinburgh. Instead of hot roasted mackerel, we had cold Tasmanian smoked trout, and I boiled and marinaded a fair amount of extra beetroot for use at lunchtimes for the rest of the week. Delish!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Quesadillas (again)

Another meal I really should try making on the barbecue! For these quesadillas, I used strips of roasted red peppers, grated cheddar and fried, thinly sliced, red onions. I tried both corn and flour tortillas, and found that the corn ones were tastier, but required more oil to crisp up and taste 'right'. We did barbeque the sweet corn and it came out just perfectly. A little salsa, with half a cubed avocado added, and we were good to go. Yum!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Roast Aubergine Wedges

It's too hot to eat 'properly'. I just want sliced vegetables, dipped in hummus and duqqa. But I also want aubergines, roasted and meltingly soft. So - I made some - just sliced a very large aubergine into edges, tossed them in olive oil, ground black pepper and ground coriander, then roasted them for fifty minutes at 200 C, until caramelised and delicious. In future I'll need to make these on the barbeque, so as to avoid heating the house by running the oven... a new antipodean challenge!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Cannellini and Coppa salad

I followed this one from Nigel, and was a little disappointed. The flavours just didn't quite mesh the way I expected them to. It's possible that we added way too much spinach, but his portion sizes were just tiny, and I knew we'd be hungry, so I added eight handfuls instead of four. Or maybe we should have used watercress instead, which would have had a lot more flavour. I also found that the olives were so big that we ended up eating them individually, and they rather overwhelmed the subtle cannelloni and herbs. I've added a few suggestions to modify the original recipe, especially the dressing, which was much weaker than it should have been. I think the whole thing would work better with tomatoes instead of olives; maybe I'll try that in future. Oh and croutons are very good with this, preferably toasted with garlic since there's none in the dressing.


This does NOT look like the version in Kitchen Diaries.

  • a tin of cannellini beans
  • a bag of mixed spinach, watercress and other flavourful leaves
  • a large handful of basil leaves
  • 75g thinly sliced coppa or prosciutto
  • a handful of black olives, pitted and quartered, or, a handful of cherry tomatoes, pitted and quartered
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Drain the beans, wash and spin the salad and basil leaves, and shake up all the dressing ingredients. Nigel suggests marinading the olives in the dressing but I found it made absolutely no difference since olives are so strongly-flavoured anyway. I'd just toss the whole lot together and top with croutons. Should be better with the mods :)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Wiener Schnitzel

This Austrian meal is traditionally prepared with veal, but apparently nowadays in Europe pork is quite commonly used, and I used to use turkey fillets when I lived in the UK. Beef is relatively cheap in Australia, so it was nice to find some real veal at the butcher's for a reasonable price. I don't know how traditional my breadcrumbs are, but I find they work well and don't take long. Tonight it was unseasonably cool, so I served this with some parboiled potatoes, baked in the oven for an hour with herbs, a little white sauce and cheese.

  • One veal fillet per person
  • one slice of bread per person
  • 2 tbsp parsley per person
  • half an egg per person
  • plain flour
  • black pepper

Lay a piece of cling film on your work bench or bread board, and place a veal fillet on it. Cover with a plastic bag or one or two more pieces of cling film. Gently pound with a rolling pin until thin, at most 5mm thick. Blend the bread and parsley together in a blender. Break the egg into a pyrex bowl, and season the flour in another bowl. Dip the veal into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, shaking gently free of any excess at each stage. Fry in olive oil for 60-120 seconds on each side, until the breadcrumbs are golden and the meat is tenderly cooked.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Seared Kangaroo with Red Wine and Pepper Sauce

It was a little sad taking these kangaroo fillets out of the fridge, as we had been hoping to cook them before my youngest sister left, so she'd have one last Ozzie meal before heading home. But we forgot and went to a really lovely Japanese restaurant instead, so the next day the poor SO and I had to eat three kangaroo fillets between us. Shaaame ;)

This really doesn't qualify as a recipe; it's just a great way of cooking venison or kangaroo in just a few minutes. We made some mustardy mash and steamed some broc, then got a non-stick pan nice and hot with just a little olive oil in it. After peppering them thoroughly, we seared the fillets for just 45 seconds on each side, then tossed in some plain flour and splashed in lots of red wine. Stirred around and bubbled for a minute or so, until the sauce had thickened, then served straight away - absolutely yum.