Monday, 2 November 2015

Lucknow Spiced Roast Lamb

Another excellent recipe from Rick Stein's India. There's a fair amount of prep work in making and applying the spice paste, but once it's done and the lamb is in the oven, that's it. You can serve with quite plain accompaniments (roast potatoes or boiled rice, and some simple vegetables or salad) because the lamb is so rich and the spice paste so delicious. It's tempting to skip steps like frying the onions but I urge you not to; much of the paste should end up inside the roast, and you want it to percolate into the meat, so it needs to be tasty straight from the blender. With this mix of ingredients, that's easy.


  • 2kg easy-carve (boned) leg of lamb
  • 2 brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6cm ginger, roughly chopped
  • 55g cashew nuts
  • 75g desiccated coconut
  • 300g thick Greek yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri (mild, bright red) chilli powder

Fry the onions in oil for 10 minutes until deep golden brown; add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a food blender and blend to a paste with all of the other ingredients.

Sit the leg of lamb in a roasting tray and make 1.5cm deep and wide incisions all over, so you can push the spice paste in. If you like, you can take off the thickest part of the fat as well, but leave some on so the roast stays moist. Push the spice paste into the middle where the bone was removed, and into the incisions, and finally coat the surface of the lamb thickly. If you have any left over, plop it underneath the lamb. Add about 200ml of water to the bottom of the tray and cover the whole leg loosely with foil. Roast at 150C for 1.5 hours, then remove the foil and roast for a further 30 minutes uncovered. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving thickly.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Microwave Hollandaise Sauce

The asparagus season has started, new potatoes are out, and salmon is fresh and tasty at the supermarket, so what better accompanying sauce than a home-made Hollandaise? I have never made one before but they're notoriously difficult, so I looked for a microwave recipe. This one worked first-try, and I made 2/3rds of the website quantity, which gave generous helpings for two people.


  • 125g butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon), well-strained

Put butter in a small pyrex bowl and microwave for 10-30 seconds, until the butter is soft, and no warmer than 45C. In a separate bowl or ramekin, mix the yolks and lemon juice. Add this mixture to the softened butter and combine well. Microwave on high, stopping to whisk every 10 seconds, which will feel very frequent but is necessary. Suddenly the sauce will thicken as the yolks cook: don't overbeat or overcook beyond a good consistency.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Faux Middle Eastern Lamb Tart

OK Uncle Richard, you can look away now! This is a totally inauthentic bit of fusion food that I've taken even more time-saving liberty with than the original. But it was surprisingly tasty, and I think I will make it again.


  • 1 red onion
  • 500g lean lamb mince
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste or three tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • juice of a lemon
  • a generous handful of finely chopped mint, plus extra leaves to serve
  • 3 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • two more tomatoes
  • handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • hummus made from one tin of chick peas
  • 1/2 to 1 pack of feta cheese, to taste

Lay the pastry out to defrost, preheat the oven to 200C, and make the hummus, if you haven't already.

Finely chop the red onion and fry gently for a few minutes, until translucent and soft. Add the lamb mince and fry, breaking it apart, until browned. Crush in the garlic and stir through the paste, or finely chop the tomatoes and stir them in. Add the spices and fry for a few minutes, until fragrant. Turn the heat off and add half of the lemon juice, cumin seeds, and mint. (The mixture will appear undercooked compared to e.g. moussaka; you can cook it for longer, but it will get a blast in the oven later, so don't make it too dry.)

Spread the middle third column of each pastry sheet with hummus, then top with the lamb mixture, and scatter over the crumbled feta. Loosely fold over the outer thirds of the pastry to form a fat edge. You can slightly crimp the tops and bottoms of the sheets if it looks like the juices are going to run out. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is risen and golden.

Meanwhile, dice the remaining tomatoes and combine with the parsley and the remaining mint, cumin seeds and lemon juice. When the tart is finished, top with this salad, the reserved mint leaves, and serve.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Daikon and Carrot Pickle / Salad

This crispy sweet-sour Japanese accompaniment is halfway between a pickle and a salad. You can use daikon, in which case I suggest using a mandolin, so that both the carrot and daikon come out in long thin strips; European radishes work fine as well, but in that case I suggest slicing both the carrots and radishes into thin disc-shaped cross-sections, so that the salad is made up of many little circles instead of long strips. The vegetables become softer and more pickled the longer you leave them in the marinade, and it keeps well up to at least 10 days in the fridge (I have always finished it faster than that :)). The finer you slice the vegetables, the faster they will pickle. This works great with rich foods like tempura or in banh mi, as the astringency cuts through the fat.
With cauliflower tempura.


  • 250g carrot (about 2 carrots)
  • 250g daikon (about 20cm)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4.5 tsbp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds


Top, tail and peel the carrot and daikon, then mandolin or julienne. Place the daikon and carrot in a mixing bowl and combine well with the salt, preferably using your hands to get all the pieces covered. Leave for 30-60 minutes. Drain the vegetables into a sieve and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Wipe out the mixing bowl and return the vegetables.

Mix the sugar and vinegar together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved (warming gently in the microwave can make this easier). Pour the sweet vinegar over the daikon and carrot, refrigerate, and leave for as long as you can: after a couple of hours the vegetables will be marinaded but still crispy, and as you leave them longer they will soften and the flavours will deepen. Stir every day to ensure the vegetables get an even pickling.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Crystallised Rose Petals

Two of our friends recently celebrated their engagement with a party, and I wanted to bring something as a gift. She is super-crafty and loves baking, and I thought maybe it would be fun to bring crystallised rose petals, perfect for topping cakes. I have a huge range of roses in the garden so I tried a few varieties:

I used this recipe, and even with a hundred rose petals, I didn't get through a cup of sugar and an egg white. I also found it too fiddly to use tweezers and just picked up the petals by hand. I would like to try simply painting them with sugar syrup next time. All of the varieties were tasty, but for some reason the white roses became very fragile and stuck to the tray completely. The red simple roses worked the best, while the magenta and orange roses were somewhere in between. Better than greaseproof paper are silicon baking tray liners: they provided the best non-stick surface. It's also important to wait a good 24 hours before attempting to remove the petals.

Overall they made a lovely combination of colours, and I gave them to my friend in a jar, separated with layers of greaseproof paper:

Also, once you've made them, don't let them get above about 25C. They can collapse and go sticky, as I found a week later when I checked on the jar of offcuts I stored in a top cupboard.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Best Buttermilk Pancakes

My husband and I recently had a small morning argument about pancakes. After some chivvying, he got up and made pancakes for breakfast (I make nice Saturday morning breakfasts all the time, without chivvying). For reasons only he knows, he eschewed all of the recipes I've already blogged, and found yet another random one on the internet to try. Again forgetting previous advice, he decided not to separate the eggs and whip the whites, used a random mug instead of a proper measuring cup for the flour, tried making his own buttermilk, and overbeat the batter. The result: bouncy tough glue circles; what I imagine dwarves chew for breakfast. Even with as nice toppings as I could find, they were inedible.

I spent half an hour or so Googling until I found someone who'd already been through this loop, and found the perfect husband-proof buttermilk pancake recipe. No egg white separation, but you will still need to remind him to buy buttermilk, and to leave batter barely mixed. I have updated it to metric quantities with Australian ingredients (I think our buttermilk is thicker). We didn't think we would eat all of these, but they were so delicious we polished them off. You'd be healthier splitting these between three people, or four as part of a brunch.

  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly whisked
  • 500ml Casa Buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium bowl, stir together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and sugar. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Drizzle in the butter as you continue to whisk.

Switch to a wooden spoon and pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet; stir until almost completely combined. The more you stir pancake batter, the more flat and tough the pancakes will be, so mix only until a few streaks of flour are remaining.

Butter and heat a pancake pan and cook ladlefuls of batter until bubbles begin to form, flip and cook until golden. Serve immediately: I like mine with maple syrup, crème fraiche and strawberries.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Soft Buttery Dinner Rolls

I usually suck at making rolls. I don't know why, but they always come out dry, or rock hard. It's probably because I never used to look up any specific recipes, just took some bread dough and divided it. This time I wanted to make one of those Vietnamese/French fusion sandwiches, like banh mi, but cribbed from Nigel's second Kitchen Diaries. I really wanted a soft, fresh, buttery roll, the kind you get in a five star restaurant and can't help but take two of, even though you know you shouldn't fill up on bread. Fortunately I found an awesome recipe first-try! My main modification was to use the dough setting of the breadmaker, because I have a three-month-old I'm lazy.


  • 1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (110ml) warm water
  • 1/2 cup (110ml) milk (I prefer whole)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups (400g) plain flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • melted butter for greasing and topping
Put the ingredients in the breadmaker and put on a dough setting. Once it gets to the first rise cycle, switch it off, and leave for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Flour a kitchen counter and turn the dough out; divide in half, in half, and then into thirds, to form 12 little dough balls. Without totally knocking the air out, tuck any rough edges away, and make the balls fairly round-shaped. Line a 9x13" (23x33cm) pan with greaseproof paper, then brush with melted butter. Lay 12 dough balls in a 3x4 grid, evenly spaced. Cover with a warm damp (but not heavy) tea towel and let rise in a warm environment (I use my oven on 40C, no fan), for 30-40 minutes, until pillowy.

Preheat the oven to 190 C and brush the rolls with more melted butter. Bake for 13-18 minutes, until risen and golden. Don't overbake -- you want to catch them while they're still moist and tender.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Chicken and Fennel Stew

More yummy winter comfort food! I really love the combination of chicken, sausages and fennel in this stew. To accentuate the fennel flavour, you can add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds. I have been using this recipe for so long that it exists as a print-out from 2007 in my recipe binder, since tablets and smartphones had not yet come into common usage. While it is a good recipe, I have changed the order and cooking times of things a little to suit my own tastes.

  • 1 large or 2 small bulbs fresh fennel, cut into ~16 wedges
  • 1 large brown onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 3 links sweet Italian sausage (about 1/4 pounds)
  • a small wine glass of dry white wine
  • 500ml homemade chicken stock
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar, more if needed
  • freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, more for sprinkling
If you do not already have chicken stock lying around, use the bones from inside the chicken thighs, some bay leaves, any leftover stalky tough bits of fennel and the roots from the onion in this recipe, and carrot and celery if you have them, to make a chicken stock (set this going first thing). Otherwise, stock powder is OK, although not *quite* as good.

Prepare all of the vegetables. Reserve some outside layers from a couple of the fennel wedges, and all of the feathery green leaves, for garnish. Skin and debone the chicken thighs, and cut the sausages into ~4cm pieces.

Fry the sausage pieces in a little oil in a deep Le Creuset until crisped and browned on the outside. Then, add a little more oil to the pan, and fry the chicken thighs for a minute or so on each side, until golden. Remove the meats from the pan, scraping it a little to remove most of any stuck bits. Add a little more oil and fry the onion and fennel for 4-5 minutes, until the onion has softened, then add the garlic. Pour in the white wine and use a wooden spatula to combine it with the sticky bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, rosemary, fennel seeds (if using) and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just cooked.

Remove a ladleful or two of the onion, broth and potato (and any bits of fennel that happen to come along too) and set aside, allowing to cool. Meanwhile, return the meat to the pan, and cover, aiming to cook for a further 25 minutes. When the set aside vegetable mixture is cool enough, blend to a paste using a food processor, then scrape back into the pan. Stir the stew occasionally to prevent further sticking. When the chicken is tender, add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and taste and adjust the seasoning.

To prepare the garnish, use a very sharp vegetable peeler to shave the reserved layers of fennel into very thin strips. Add the feathery leaves and season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil.

To serve, ladle the stew into individual bowls, top with the garnish, and serve with grated parmesan for people to add.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Kangaroo "Abritzi"

Heresy, perhaps. But I found the substitution for the traditional lamb to be quite delicious, with an even softer and more melting texture. There was less of the punchy gaminess so the seasoning was better with slightly less lemon juice and more black pepper. Kangaroo fillets are also much easier to prepare than lamb rump, as they are completely lean, so there is no thick or gristly fat to cut off. Thus this is a speedy version -- at least, if you live in Australia and have access to kangaroo fillets.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Sausage and Lentil Stew

A great winter warmer -- the secret ingredient which knits together all the flavours is crushed fennel seeds.


  • Six good-quality meaty Italian or French-style sausages
  • 10-12 pickling onions or shallots
  • 3 rashers bacon
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • generous glass of red wine
  • 150g green lentils
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 100g vacuum-packed, canned or rehydrated chestnuts


Chop the sausages into short pieces and top, tail and peel the onions. Trim any tough fat off the bacon and cut into strips. In a large Le Creuset or similar pot, fry the sausages, onions and bacon together for a few minutes, until some of the sausage skin is crisping. Meanwhile, dice the carrots and celery and crush or finely chop the garlic. Add to the sausage. Fry, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes more, then deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Crush the fennel seeds lightly in a mortar and pestle, then add to the stew, along with the lentils. Top up with a little hot water, so that the lentils can cook. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, checking and stirring occasionally so it does not stick to the pan. Cook until the onions are soft, sweet and falling apart -- usually slightly longer for shallots than for pickling onions. Stir through the chestnuts and allow to heat through. Serve with mashed potato or potato Colcannon.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Dairy-free Chocolate Cheesecake

I know, that sounds terrible, right? It's actually amazing. And all I needed to make it was a small aubergine... (well in my case, a large aubergine, because my cake pans were a different size to what they suggested!) I don't know how many people this serves, but it's so rich that we were eating it for lunch-dessert and real-dessert for about a week!


  • 3 small or 1 large whole aubergines (weighing roughly 600g)
  • 450g best dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into squares
  • 75g good quality cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 4 large or extra-large eggs (could substitute tofu to make this vegan)
  • 300g clear honey (could substitute sugar or agave syrup to make this vegan)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp brandy
Line two 8″/20cm springform tins with baking parchment and lightly brush the base and sides with a little oil. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Peel the aubergine(s) using a vegetable peeler and place in a large microwaveable bowl, then microwave on high for 8-10 minutes until soft and collapsed. Roughly dice and pour away any thin watery fluid. Blend/puree using an electric blender. Again in a microwaveable bowl, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave, this time on a medium setting, for 5 minutes, stirring several times. As soon as the chocolate and aubergine are less than 50C, combine with the pureed aubergine, then add all of the other ingredients and mix well (no need to worry about overbeating as this recipe has no flour!)

Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake for 30 minutes. A skewer probably won't come out clean, as the final texture is more like a cheesecake or mudcake than a spongecake.

Butternut Squash and Red Onion Galettes

Frozen puff pastry is a wonder for making the simplest meal look super-fancy. These were a whiz to make and you could leave them in the oven after assembly, ready to switch it on half an hour before you want to serve them. My recipe was inspired by this page.


  • Four sheets of frozen puff pastry
  • olive oil or butter
  • Three red onions
  • Half of a large, or a whole small butternut squash (about 600g)
  • a large handful of fresh sage leaves or 2 tsp dried sage
  • 50-100g blue cheese (to taste)


Defrost the pastry, preferably slowly by leaving it out on the counter, while you do the rest of the cooking. Thinly slice the red onions into rings, or if you're in a hurry, half-moons. Peel and chop the butternut squash into bite-sized pieces. Finely shred the sage leaves. Gently fry the onion and squash in 2-3 tbsp of oil or butter, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, and the squash is golden and just barely beginning to break up. Turn off the heat and stir through the sage leaves, and season very well with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 180 C. Lay out a couple of large baking trays and cover with greaseproof paper, then brush with melted butter or oil. Lay out each piece of puff pastry on the lined tray and spoon a quarter of the mixture into the centre. Roughly fold up the sides -- I find it's easiest to fold up each corner, then crimp the new small edges to stop the corners unfolding again. If you like, you can brush the pastry with oil, milk, butter, or egg, but I find the frozen stuff is fine without. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and risen, and cooked where it is in contact with the tray. Remove and top with crumbled blue cheese, and serve with a simple salad of bitter lettuce dressed with a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Kangaroo Bobotie

This is some real fusion food -- a South African national dish made with the Australian national animal! It turned out pretty well, but it had a sort of colonial feel to it -- something like a shepherd's pie that has been improvised using unexpected local ingredients. Tasty, but I think I prefer mousakka, as this felt a bit protein-heavy and the sweetness made it rather same-y. Maybe I'll play around with the recipe a bit more til I find a version I like. There are hundreds of different variations online!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kangaroo Bolognese

Continuing my theme of using kangaroo mince in everything, I tried out a kangaroo bolognese. Like the mousakka, it was actually an improvement on the original, because of the leaner, tastier quality of the meat. Without all the fat from typical beef mince, the sauce no longer has that thick layer of red oil which coats and stains everything. Instead it's pure bolognese heaven -- fantastic on pasta or as a component of classic lasagne. I seem to be the only one in the universe who insists on mushrooms in bolognese, but whatever. It's not a real Italian sauce anyway, so I can put whatever I like in it!


  • 1kg kangaroo mince
  • 2 brown onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1-2 sticks celery
  • 500g button or smallish mushrooms
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 6 rashers bacon (back or streaky, either is fine)
  • 680g tomato passata or 2x325g tinned tomatoes
  • 150g tomato puree
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes (optional, but I strongly recommend them)
  • glass of red or white wine
  • 1 cup milk or half a cup of cream (optional)
Finely dice the onions and fry with the kangaroo mince, breaking it up and stirring until the mince is brown and the onions are soft. Meanwhile, dice the carrots, finely dice the celery, and cut the small mushrooms in half, or slice them if they are larger. Crush the garlic and snip or cut the bacon into 2cm-long strips. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic and bacon to the onion and mince, stir well, and cook until the mushrooms have softened.

Add the tomato ingredients, herbs, wine, and chilli flakes if using. Rinse out the tomato jar or cans with a cup of water and pour into the sauce. Stir until combined, then partly cover and simmer for 2-4 hours, until thickened and delicious. If the sauce starts to dry out, add a little water and completely cover, but don't reduce the cooking time.

Five minutes before serving, add the milk or cream. If you want to keep the bolognese in the fridge and reheat it later, or use it in a lasagne, I suggest not adding the milk or cream until you do come to serve it or use it, as it will keep better.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Pumpkin Chilli

Finding myself with a surfeit of pumpkin from the garden, and a craving for chilli, I searched around until I found this recipe. It really is a delicious combination, and you won't even notice that this is not a 'con carne'. That said, I love to throw in a little chorizo or bacon to smoke things up a bit. I modified the ingredients slightly, since I don't know what was in their 'chilli powder', but I assume you wouldn't want an Indian-style chilli powder, and that's all that's available here. You can leave this in the fridge for a few days and the flavours will keep developing.


  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 red or green peppers, chopped
  • 750g butternut squash or eating pumpkin, peeled and chopped
  • 100g of smoked bacon or cured chorizo, finely diced (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp chilli flakes (up to you)
  • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, including the liquid
  • 2 cans kidney or black eye beans
  • 300-500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 avocados
  • sour cream (optional)
  • crispy tortilla strips
  • fresh leaf coriander (optional, for garnish)

In a large Le Creuset or sauce pan, sautée the chopped vegetables (onion, pepper, squash, garlic) and bacon or sausage, if using, in one to two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add all of the spices canned ingredients and stock, and stir. Don't use all of the stock if it looks like it will make the chilli very runny, but feel free to top up as it cooks if it looks too dry. Cover for about one hour, stirring occasionally.

By the time your chilli is done, the butternut squash should be nice and tender and the liquid should have reduced a bit, producing the hearty chilli consistency that we all know and love. Serve the chilli in individual bowls, topped with diced avocado and sour cream, if using. Use the strips to eat mouthfuls of chilli!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Kangaroo Moussaka

The grocer had a special on aubergines (not very seasonal but at a dollar each, grown in Australia, how can one resist?) and I really wanted to make moussaka. Unfortunately, the only thing less seasonal than aubergines at the moment is lamb! Neither the butcher nor the supermarket had any lamb mince, nor were willing to make any. So I thought -- why not try a kangaroo moussaka? The meat has a similar gaminess, and it's a more environmentally-friendly option in this country.  It's also a healthier option as it's generally leaner than lamb.If you're making this outside Australia, of course feel free to use lamb mince, or a mixture of beef and pork if you prefer.

One thing that's a little off-putting about the kangaroo mince is that it doesn't smell nearly as good early on in the cooking, but after 45 minutes of simmering, it suddenly disintegrates and becomes just as if not more tasty than lamb. So stick with it, it'll work out in the end!

I started with this recipe and modified it to suit my own tastes. I really prefer having potatoes separate to the moussaka, for contrast -- baked or mashed, either way. If you need to feed more than six people, but don't want to / can't buy fractionally more kangaroo mince (it comes in 1kg packs in my supermarket), feel free to bulk out the moussaka with a couple of grated carrots, or a cup of cooked lentils.


  • 1 large or two small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
  • 1kg kangaroo mince
  • 2 carrots, cleaned and grated or a cup of cooked lentils (optional -- use if you need to feed more people)
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 1 tsp ground cinammon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 large eggplants (aubergines)
  • olive oil
  • 1 small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 120g butter
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 4 cups warm milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Heat a little olive oil in a non stick pan and gently saute the onion until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook the mince until it loses all its water and begins to brown. Add the diced celery. If using, add the carrot or lentils. Add the cinammon, bay leaf, herbs and wine; stir and deglaze the pan, then add the tin of tomato and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill or barbeque the eggplants, brushed with olive oil, until soft and golden on both sides. Also, make a bechamel sauce: melt the butter in a pyrex bowl, in the microwave, then stir in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk, drop in the bay leaf and nutmeg, then microwave for five minutes, stirring every minute. The sauce should thicken.

Set the oven temperature to 180C. In a large rectangular dish, alternate layers of eggplant and mince until the dish is nearly full. Check the bechamel and taste for seasoning. Spoon over the top and smooth it over with a spatula. The layer should be quite thick. Bake for 25-45 minutes or until it’s all golden and bubbly. Serve with mashed or baked potato, and steamed vegetables or Greek salad.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Beef Stroganoff (via Julie Goodwin)

I have already posted a beef stroganoff recipe, but I recently came across this version by Julie Goodwin, which with a slight reduction to the amount of tomato, and increase in the amount of mushrooms, produces a marginally superior result. I really like the flour-fried steak, even though it's a little more fiddly. I took her advice and used round steak, and I think this would also work well with skirt. Both need to be run through a tenderizer (ask your butcher), and benefit from being part-frozen (takes about an hour) and then sliced using a very sharp knife. These cuts are cheaper and tastier than the rump or fillet I suggest using in my previous post.

  • 1 kg round or skirt steak, trimmed and sliced very thinly (see above)
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground (white, if you have it) pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
  • 500g (button, if you like) mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup beef stock 
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 300ml sour cream

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika.  Toss the beef strips thoroughly through the mixture. In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat until it is just smoking.  Place half of the beef mixture into the pan and toss for 2 minutes until it is golden brown. If you have time, fry the beef in batches without overcrowding the pan, in order to get more tasty crispy bits and not have the beef stick together. If you're in a rush you can use a bit more oil and use a spatula to separate the beef, as long as it's not ALL lying on top of itself.

Reduce the heat to medium high.  Place the last of the oil in the pan and sauté the mushrooms and garlic until softened.  Add tomato paste and stir for a further minute.  Add stock, Worcestershire sauce and sour cream to the pan.  Return the beef and stir for a minute or two until well combined and warmed through.

Serve with pasta or rice, and steamed green beans or broccoli.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hot Cross Buns (in the breadmaker)

I've reached the third trimester, and find myself constantly hungry. I'm getting pretty bored of just eating 10% larger meals... and it's also sometimes just not enough. So -- time to make some tasty, carb-tastic snacks which are also apropos for the time of year :) It's still 30C here during the day so I didn't really feel like kneading a lot of dough, so I searched for a bread machine recipe for hot cross bun dough. It's an American site so everything's in cups, but it has a handy metric conversion... if you don't mind measuring out something as nonsensical as "77.84 ml of butter", or "3.23 ml of ground cinammon". So here's my best shot at the same recipe in weight-based units, so you can whack the pan on a set of scales and get going.

For the dough:
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 200ml milk
  • 70g butter
  • 80g sugar
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 600g plain white flour
  • 1 tbsp dried yeast
  • 75g sultanas or raisins
For the glaze:
  • 55g icing sugar
  • ~ 1 tbsp milk

Break the egg and separate the yolk into the bread maker (save the white for another meal). Put the rest of the ingredients in, except for the raisins, cutting the butter into smaller pieces. Put the raisins in the nut dispenser if you have one; otherwise set a timer so you can add them just before the second knead. Put the bread maker on the dough setting.

When the timer has finished, take the dough out cut it into 18-24 pieces (I used a pair of scissors and the divide-by-two or three each-time method). Line a 23x33cm (or thereabouts) baking tin with greaseproof parchment, or oil well. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and arrange in the tin about 1 cm apart. Don't worry if they look crowded.

Cover with another sheet of greaseproof parchment or oiled clingfilm, and put somewhere warm to rise for an hour. (I used the 'warm' function of my oven on a 40C setting.) Using a very sharp knife, slice the traditional cross in each one, then bake at 190 C for 12-15 minutes until golden on top. (I erred on the shortest time and got great results -- don't leave them in too long or they'll go tough!)

Mix up the glaze by adding a little milk at a time to the icing sugar until it reaches a pourable but thick consistency. Once the buns have cooled for 5-10 minutes, use a spoon to drizzle the icing into the crosses, and leave to cool for a further few minutes. Then serve with a cup of tea :)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Lamb Pulao and Vegetable Makhanawala

Really loving this new cookbook! I won't copy out the recipes here since I did nothing to change them. If you're interested in really fantastic authentic Indian food then I suggest you purchase a copy of the book! The pulao was fluffy, with gorgeously reduced lamb curry underneath, and the vegetable makhanawala was creamy, cashew-y and filling. On Stein's recommendation I bought some Kashmiri chilli powder, and it was an excellent purchase, giving a lovely red colour and a subtle and tangy heat. A couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt and this pairing made a feast -- and in the quantities I made, enough for a whole week of dinners for us! Will definitely cook these again.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Seafood Chowder

I got back from Boston with a craving for MORE CHOWDER. I really should have a go at making a cob loaf to serve this in, but homemade breadmaker sourdough will have to suffice until the weather is cool enough to switch the oven on. This is also not as heart-attack-inducing as a proper Boston seafood chowder and can be eaten as lunch or dinner without pre-charging the defibrillator. If you want to up the ante, double the flour, reduce the stock to the absolute minimum that covers the vegetables, and top up with double the listed amount of the thickest cream you can find, just before serving. I can never make just enough for two so this (with bread) will do for four people.


  • 1 onion or leek
  • 100g lardons OR smoked fish
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 3 potatoes
  • a bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 750ml litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 corn cobs, or a tin of sweet corn
  • 500g marinara mix (a mix of white fish, salmon, squid, peeled prawns, and mussels)
  • 200ml thickened or double cream
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • a bunch of fresh parsley

Peel or clean and finely chop the onion or leek. Fry in a deep pan in a little butter or olive oil until translucent and soft. If using the lardons, add at the same time as the onions, so they cook and turn golden. (Don't add smoked fish at this stage!) Meanwhile, dice the carrot, celery and potatoes (no need to peel them). Add the vegetables and the bay leaf to the cooked onions, stir in the flour, then pour over the stock; bring up to a simmer and then allow the vegetables to cook to just past al dente -- about 10-12 minutes. If you like your potato to be falling apart, cook a little longer. Slice the corn off the cob (or drain the tin) and add, along with the marinara mix, and the smoked fish if using. Bring back up to temperature and allow to cook through, a matter of minutes for the fish and the corn. (Be particularly careful not to boil any squid in the marinara mix for more than 30 seconds, or it will go tough!) Once the fish is cooked through, stir in the cream and bring back up to temperature, but do not allow the chowder to boil. Serve in a cob or in bowls, scattered over with finely chopped parsley.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Quick-friend Coconut Beans and Carrots

Nom, at last a vegetable-based Indian side dish that I can make in just under 10 minutes! Stein suggests using fresh or frozen grated coconut, but I find that adding dried shredded coconut just a minute before the cooking time is up soaks up the remaining water, and is a lot less hassle to keep in the cupboard. You could easily vary the vegetables based on whatever you have to hand, and the spices to complement whatever else you're cooking.


  • vegetable oil
  • 2 small chillies, finely chopped (keep the seeds if you like the spice)
  • handful of curry leaves (fresh or dried)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • large handful of green beans, topped, tailed and diced
  • one medium to large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75 ml water
  • a large handful of dried shredded coconut

Bruise the spices in at mortar and pestle then fry with the curry leaves and chillies in a frying pan for a minute. Tip in the vegetables and salt, stir to coat, then add the water and immediately cover, turning the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the vegetables are just done, then add the coconut, stir, and re-cover, turning off the heat so the coconut can absorb the cooking water.

Perfect Pilaf Rice

Not so much my own recipe, as the first time I tried out the summary recipe from this excellent Guardian article on the perfect pilaf. I followed the instructions exactly, despite having misgivings about boiling the rice in so much water, and leaving a tea towel near an open flame. The rice came out fragrant, fluffy, perfectly-cooked, and where the butter had fried it, just a little decadent. I think next time I will ever-so-slightly increase the heat, so as to get more of a seared base, but such adjustments will be vary individually depending on your own hob. I could also see topping this with some sultanas and almonds, but as it stands the flavours are subtle yet fantastic.

  • 300g white basmati rice
  • Salt
  • Generous knob of butter
  • 3 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 strips of lemon zest
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)

Rinse the rice thoroughly and tip into a large saucepan of boiling, salted water. Stir, bring back to the boil, and cook for 7 minutes. Drain well and season to taste. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a clean pan over a medium heat then add the spices and lemon zest. Cook for a minute, then add 2 tbsp water and a layer of rice. Heap the rest on top in layers, making sure not to push it down. Make 5 air holes in the surface with the handle of a wooden spoon, wrap a lid of the pan in a clean tea towel and cover. Cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes.

Sali Murghi (Chicken and Apricot Curry with Matchstick Potatoes)

Happy New Year!

I have no good excuses for not posting. I was lazy at the end of November, in the US for most of December, and then ate nothing but BBQ and leftover Christmas ham during the holiday break. Yesterday saw the seventh-hottest day ever recorded in Perth, so all I could face was the usual Thai beef salad, thrown together from whatever salad vegetables I had, plus half a bag of fresh beansprouts and a big bunch of mint, for extra cooling effect. Nice to use a post-BBQ extra T-bone steak as well; never have I had such deliciously chilled and soft beef.

Anyway! Last year, just before I left for the States, a surprise present arrived from a friend in the UK: Rick Stein's India, a really fantastic compilation of Indian recipes from all over the subcontinent. On Sunday I decided to try out one of the more challenging looking recipes, sali murghi, or chicken and apricot curry with potato straws. The ingredients list is moderately long, but of course the spices are essential. We found that they combined beautifully with the apricots and other vegetables to form a thick and sweet-sour sauce that complemented the chicken and potatoes perfectly. From a single chicken, there was easily enough for six people, or for us, two dinners and two lunches. (We had the second dinner with perfect pilaf rice and quick-friend coconut vegetables.)

For the matchstick potatoes (sali):

  • 250g of Chat (or other chipping/new) potatoes, julienned and soaked in cold water for at least 15 minutes
  • a deep fryer or heavy-based pan full of vegetable oil for deep frying
  • salt

For the curry:

  • vegetable oil
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised with a rolling pin
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 4cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 100g tomatoes (about 1 large, or 2 small), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a thumb of ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 chicken, jointed into 8 pieces (get the butcher to do it!)
  • 2 tsp jaggery, palm sugar, or brown sugar
  • 150g dred apricots
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • handful of fresh coriander, leaves torn off

Bruise the whole spices in a mortar and pestle and fry in a large casserole / Le Creuset for a minute until fragrant. Add the onion, turn the heat down, and fry for 10 min until softened and golden. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and turn in the spce mixture, then add the sugar, apricots and vinegar.

(At this point, Stein suggests adding enough water to cover; if you do this, you will likely need to remove the cooked chicken and then vigorously boil down/reduce the sauce for ~10 minutes at the end, unless perhaps you remove the lid, but then the chicken may cook unevenly. I suggest instead adding 200ml of water, covering, and turning over the chicken pieces a few times until they are cooked, and leaving the lid off for the last 15 minutes of cook time.)

Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is reduced. Meanwhile, drain the potatoes, dry in a colander, and deep-fry at 180C for 2-3 minutes per batch until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt, then use to top to the finished curry, along with the coriander leaves.