Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shop smart, cook clever, waste less

Read in the Qantas magazine yesterday that Jamie Oliver has a new book published, on how to be more frugal with our recipes and ingredients, use home grown produce, and shop at farmers markets etc, which strikes a chord with me, not that I am considering buying the book at the moment. I love recipe books though and will take a look at it. Instead of using cream imported from Switzerland or moss imported from Russia, buy local and waste less.

Then I saw Margaret Fulton interviewed,  who is advocating the same idea of supporting our local farmers more to ensure variety of produce, shop at the Farmers Markets, and grow your own if possible. Simplicity is key.

Great ideas and and I love the whole rustic approach to cooking and presentation.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Damper Scones

A Devonshire tea, with tea, scones, jam and cream,  is a must when spending time with family and friends. This is my no fail damper style scone recipe.

Low-fat Chicken Burritos Enchilada Style

Mexican food is so tasty and this Enchilada dish is easy as well. Ingredients can be easily increased to feed a crowd. I have also used  pre-cooked chicken for this recipe and that works well and saves time.


120g chicken breast fillet, chopped
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
1/2 cup green capsicum, chopped
1/2 cup 99% fat free canned re-fried beans
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp taco seasoning
2 tbs water
4 large tortillas
1/1/4 cups salsa
40g reduced fat tasty cheese, grated

Let's cook:
  1. Preheat oven to 200oC. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Coat a non-stick frypan with cooking spray and brown chicken. Add shallots, capsicum, and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add re-fried beans, parsley, taco seasoning and water to pan and stir over heat until combined.
  3. Spoon a quarter of the filling across the centre of each tortilla and roll up. Place in a baking dish and pour salsa over burritos. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.
  4. Serves 4.
Serve with sliced fresh tomato and shredded lettuce.

Cherry Ripe Balls

I just found this recipe via a post on Facebook:  and I think it will be added to our Christmas repertoire this year.

Cherry Ripe Balls Recipe


  • 5-6 cherry ripe bars (6 if you want a stronger cherry ripe flavour, which I prefer)
  • 1 packet of Nice biscuits (alternately use choc ripple or any other biscuit)
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (get the Aldi’s brand if you can, as Nestle is a highly unethical brand – and Aldi’s is cheaper to boot)
  • Desiccated coconut for rolling
Makes about 30 if you use a heaped teaspoon size for the balls (as shown).

Cherry Ripe Balls Recipe – Method

  • Simply place the cherry ripe bars, biscuits and cocoa in a food processor and blend. Be careful if you have a stick/hand blender – several members have blown theirs up doing this! If you don’t have a food processor, you can use zip lock bags and attack them with a rolling pin – freezer bags are not thick enough and will break open.
  • Once you’ve got your mix ready, add the can of condensed milk, mix in well and roll into balls, covering with coconut. You might like to add some red food colouring to the coconut, or use red sprinkles instead of coconut or some other variation. Leave them to set in the fridge and you’re done!

Cherry Ripe Balls Recipe – Variations

We’ve had some great suggestions for variations to this recipe. You can substitute the cherry ripes for whatever you like – some members have tried mint slice, crunchie, peppermint crisp (these come out very gooey, I added around half a cup of coconut to try and ‘dry’ it out more!), boost bars, oreo, tim tam and more – even mixing a combination of them. You can also finish the balls by dipping them in chocolate to make them even naughtier!
If you don’t have or use Nice biscuits, you can use something similar like Marie, arrowroot or choc ripple (especially good with a peppermint bar substitute).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheat's Pad Thai

This recipe is take from the Food & Wine section of the Saturday Australian with David Herbert. I also add shredded chicken to this recipe.

Small bunch coriander
Vegetable oil, for frying
200g uncooked prawns, shelled
2 spring onions
1/2 long red chilli, chopped
300g fresh pad thai noodles
85g bean sprouts
1 egg, beaten with a fork
Juice 1 lime, plus wedges to serve
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, roughly chopped to serve.

Finely chop coriander stems and roughly chop leaves. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and fry prawns, spring onions, chilli and coriander stems for 1-2 minutes, or until prawns are pink. Add noodles, sprouts, egg, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Toss over high heat until egg is cooked and everything is combined and heated through. Remove from heat, stir in most of the coriander leaves, then divide between 2 large bowl. Scatter with remaining coriander and peanuts, and serve with lime wedges. Serves 2.

Lentil & Cauliflower Dahl

Serves 4

2 tbsp. sunflower oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp. medium-hot Indian curry paste
1 cup (200g) dried red lentils
3 cups (750ml) vegetable stock
2 tbsp. tomato paste
500g cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tbsp. roughly chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
natural yoghurt and naan bread, to serve

Let's Cook:
  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and curry paste. Cook stirring, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add lentils and stir well to coat. Add stock and tomato paste. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer5 over low heat for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  3. Return heat to medium. Add cauliflower and simmer, covered, for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve the curry with yoghurt and naan, garnished with extra coriander.

Rum Balls Eungella Style

Makes approximately 30 Rum Balls. I enjoyed these very much at the restaurant at Eungella, near Mackay, and the wonderful chef  gave me this recipe.

250g butter
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cocoa (60ml)
4 tablespoons icing sugar or mixture (60ml)
4 tablespoons Bundaberg rum (60ml)
200 g sultanas
330 g cooking chocolate
30g coconut

Grate 300g chocolate, cream warmed butter and egg yolks, mix in cocoa, icing sugar, rum, sultanas & grated chocolate thoroughly. Grate remaining chocolate and mix with coconut. Form mixture into balls and roll them in the grated chocolate/coconut mixture. Refrigerate before serving.

Potato salad with fresh dill

A simple but delicious fresh potato salad with fresh dill and spring onions. Your loved ones will not be disappointed if you turn up at a BBQ with this delight! Great for Christmas.

30 large peeled and diced potatoes
3 bunches fresh chopped dill
2 bottles good quality mayonnaise
20 tablespoons good quality wholegrain mustard
1 bunch fresh chopped spring onions

Preparation method:

  1. Peel and dice potatoes, add to boiling salted water and cook for approx. 10-15 minutes or until cooked but slightly firm.
  2. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard and chopped dill and mix well.
  3. Drain potatoes and allow to cool slightly before adding to mayonnaise mixture.
  4. Combine well so that all potatoes are nicely coated and serve warm with chopped spring onions on top.

Molten Chocolate Puddings


180g NESTLE PLAISTOWE 63% Cocoa Couverture, plus 100g extra melted chocolate to serve
140g unsalted butter
3 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
85g caster sugar
2/3 cup (100g) plain flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease eight 175ml dariole moulds. Break 40g of the NESTLE PLAISTOWE 63% Cocoa Couverture into 5g squares and set aside.

Let's cook:
Place the remaining chocolate with the butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water.) When melted, remove from the heat and stir until smooth. Cool slightly.
Place eggs, extra yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and thick. Pour in melted chocolate, then add flour. Using a large metal spoon, stir until mixture is  well combined.
Pour evenly into moulds. Push a square of reserved chocolate into the centre of each pudding, ensuring it is completely covered. Place moulds on a tray and bake in the oven for 9 minutes.
Remove moulds from the oven and stand for 1 minute before inverting onto serving plates. Serve immediately, drizzled with extra melted chocolate.
Makes 8.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Healthy Vegetarian Barley Risotto

This is the easiest risotto, which minimal stirring required unlike most risottos. I love the texture of the high fibre barley, the wine enhanced flavour, and with the variety of vegetables it is a meal in itself. I combined two recipes and then gave it my touch, hence the versatility of the ingredients. The pumpkin is definitely optional, as it takes longer, however I love its earthy flavour.


Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chopped onion or 1 chopped leek
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups barley
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup fresh diced tomato
1 cup peas
salt and pepper
grated romano or parmesan cheese
4 fresh thyme sprigs
Optional vegetables:
1 chopped zucchini
1 head broccoli (about 320g) cut into small florets
1 kg butternut pumpkin, deseeded cut into 2 cm pieces

Let's Cook:
  1. If using pumpkin, preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the pumpkin, in a single layer on the tray and spray with olive oil spray. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 1 hour or until tender.
  2. In olive oil, sauté onion (leek) and garlic until softened. Add mushrooms, cook until browning.
  3. Add barley, thyme, and cook for 5 minutes until lightly toasted.
  4. Add white wine, add 3 cups stock, tomato, salt & pepper.
  5. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender.
  6. Add the broccoli and cooked pumpkin.
  7. Add peas, and some additional broth or more wine if needed, simmer an additional 10-15 minutes, stir in cheese, and more salt & pepper if needed. ( Be careful during this last 15 minutes that the mixture doesn't stick to the pan.)
Enjoy and be healthy!
So dear readers do you have any suggestions to enhance this recipe further? Do you enjoy cooking with barley?

Bet wishes, 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lawrence's Rustic Greek Cheese and Spinach Pie

Everyone loves Cheese and Spinach Pie, and there are lots of healthy versions out there. This recipe brings with it fond memories of our visits to Scotland, where Lawrence, the chef of the house and a vegetarian, always serves this as his signature dish. It is always successful and so delicious.

Snow capped Fell to cool us down
Now that the rains have come to North Queensland, and the heat has eased for a while, I feel like cooking again so this is on the menu for tonight.

2 pkts frozen spinach, defrosted, and squeeze all the moisture out of it
1 onion
3/4 clove of garlic, roughly chopped (I add 2 cloves)
1 egg, beaten
2/3 tablespoon sour cream
1 pkt Halloumi cheese, grated ( a job for the assistant chef)
salt and pepper
3 sheets pastry - Short crust (home made if possible)/ Filo/ Puff Pastry (my choice if in a hurry)

Let's cook:
  1. Oil or lightly grease a baking tray or equivalent.
  2. Place pastry on tray roughly, overlapping edges.
  3. Mix all other ingredients and press into pastry.
  4. Fold over pastry and leave hole in the centre.
  5. Bake in the oven until pastry is cooked.

Let me know if other cheeses work for you with your Cheese and Spinach pie.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pesto, Pine Nut and Parmesan Muffins

It's Muffin Monday and muffins are on the menu for breakfast, savoury Pesto Pine Nut and Parmesan Muffins that is. These also suit the perfect brunch  for friends who might just pop in. They are  delicious served with a selection of relishes and chutneys.

This recipe serves 12.

  • Oil or butter for greasing or use nice paper muffin cases in a muffin tin
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (no shortcuts here)
  • 1/2 cup (80g pkt) pine nuts
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons sunflower oil or melted butter cooled(can use canola and pine nut oil)
  • 2-3 tablespoons pesto
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line it with muffin paper liners. To make the topping mix together parmesan and pine nuts and set aside.
  2. To make muffins: Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs in a larger bowl, then beat in the buttermilk and oil. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten liquid ingredients. Add the pesto and stir gently until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan. Scatter the topping over the muffins. Bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes until well risen, golden brown and firm to touch.
  5. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes then serve warm.
Happy cooking

Best wishes,


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken for Retirees and Travellers

Dear friends, Here is such an easy and economical version of Sweet and Sour chicken with great flavour, using basic ingredients, and so easy to put together if you are travelling or feeling lazy at home. More vegetables such as zucchini, or snow peas can be added if you have them on hand.

This is so much healthier for us when we are in a rush than reaching for a ready made jar of sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket and tastes even better and is just a cinch to make.

Left over cooked chicken can also be used as a substitute for the fresh chicken. Just cut  into cubes and add it at after cooking all of the other ingredients. So easy and fast.


2 tablespoons Olive oil
3-4 chicken breasts
1 capsicum
4 celery stalks
1 can pineapple pieces, or use fresh if you prefer
1 tin tomato soup
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
garlic if preferred

Let's cook:

Cut chicken pieces into bite size pieces and fry in oil until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.
Add chopped vegetables and fry until slightly softened.
Add the pineapple pieces and the juice and the tomato soup.
Add sugar and curry powder. Stir together and simmer until vegetables are cooked but still slightly crisp.

Replace the chicken pieces and serve with rice or noodles.

One of my Cattleya orchids in flower

Happy travels

Best wishes


Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce

Cherry blossom, Rotorua, N.Z.

This Poached Pears in Red Wine recipe is simple but sophisticated and because it is based on fruit and red wine, must be healthier as a dessert.
Serves 4. Prep and cook time: 40 minutes
1 cup (220g) sugar
1 cup (250ml) red wine
1 cup (250ml) water
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip lemon rind
4 just ripe pears, with stems attached

Let's cook:
  1. Place sugar, wine, water, cinnamon and lemon rind into a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  2. Meanwhile, peel pears and, using a small sharp knife, remove cores from underside of pears.
  3. Lower pears into poaching liquid and simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until tender, turning pears occasionally during cooking so they colour evenly.
  4. Transfer pears to a heated plate and cover to keep warm. Boil the remaining liquid for about 10 minutes or until it becomes syrupy. Serve pears with syrupy red wine sauce and ice-cream or double cream, if desired.
Do you prefer your pears peeled or unpeeled for this recipe? I don't mind them unpeeled either but perhaps the wine doesn't soak into the fruit as well.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jays Mums Pavlova Recipe

This is one of the best Pavlova recipes I have ever used. I think that soaking the sugar overnight ensures the sugar dissolves well and provides a crunchy texture.


2 egg whites
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 tablespoons of boiling water
2 cups of castor sugar
4 teaspoons of white vinegar
2 teaspoons of baking powder


Place egg whites and sugar in a bowl. Soak this overnight. Do not refrigerate.

Beat egg whites for 7 minutes. Add the vanilla, vinegar and water. Beat until stiff (20 minutes). Add the baking powder. Cook in a slow oven for 2 hours.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ma Ma's Christmas Cake

Ma Ma’s Christmas cake

Firstly Prepare Dried fruits and nuts

 1 kg mixed fruit + 1 doz. dates + 100g cherries or use 3 pkts Mixed fruit
3 oz almonds
1 lb. raisins 

Prepare the fruit and nuts the day before and warm the following ingredients together in a small saucepan until nicely blended.

1 tablespoon Rum, or brandy or sherry              
½ teasp each of vanilla essence, and almond essence                 
1 level dessertspoon golden syrup                                                      
1 dessertspoon each of lemon juice, orange juice, and coffee essence
1 level dessertspoon  dark jam  

 Pour this warm mixture over the prepared fruit and nuts - Cover and leave overnight.

Cake batter ingredients:

225 grams/8 oz butter                                         
8 oz light brown sugar   (1 cup)                              
5 eggs                                                            
31 grams/2 ozs S.R. flour   (1/2 cup)                                             
1 level teaspoon salt
225 grams/9 oz (2 cups) plain flour                                             
¼ teasp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and mixed spice      

Day of cooking:
Method: Cream butter and sugar until light and soft. Test each egg separately in a cup and beat them into the butter, cream one at a time, and add a little of your measured flour between the last 2nd or 3rd egg to prevent any risk of curdling.

Have ready the flours sifted together with salt and spices. Add these and blend smoothly and well. Last of all add the soaked fruits and mix evenly and thoroughly let it stand in the bowl for 10 minutes before placing in the prepared tins.

Place your wooden spoon upright in the centre of the mixture. It should not move if correct consistency.

Line your tin with alfoil, and 2 layers of brown paper or Glad Bake. Set oven at 180 deg. , and after 1 hour decrease to 150 deg. for approx.. 3 hrs.
OR ( Alternative oven temperatures that my cousin Rae suggests for cooking Christmas Cakes, are 200 deg. for 10 minutes, 150 deg. for 1 hour, and 110 deg. for 3 hrs.)

“A helpful hint for the baking of your Christmas Cake. After 1 hour of baking a rich fruitcake place on the bottom shelf of your oven, a baking dish, 3 parts filled with cold water. This prevents the bottom of your cakes burning and also the steam keeps the cake moist.”

Chickpea Curry

Mum’s Chickpea Curry

Preparation time: 10mins

Total cooking time: 40 mins

Serves 4. 

1 tablsp. Ghee or oil

2 onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teasp. chilli powder

1 teasp. salt

1 teasp. ground turmeric

1 teasp. paprika

1 tablsp. ground coriander

1 tablsp. ground cumin

880g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

440 g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes

1 teasp. garam masala

Let's Cook:
  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a pan.
  2. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the chilli powder, salt, turmeric, paprika, cumin and coriander. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins.
  4. Stir in the chickpeas and tomato. Simmer,  covered, over low heat for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in the garam masala. Simmer, covered,for a further 10mins. Serve as part of an Indian meal with paratha.

Anna's Rum Chocolate Profiteroles (Scotland)

This profiterole recipe was given to me by Anna, a friend in Linlithgow, Scotland. We were served this on our last night that we stayed with them. Amazing! This would also be delicious as a special sweet at Christmas time.

Choux Pastry


75g (3oz) plain flour
2 small eggs

125 ml (1/4 pint) water

50g (2 oz) margarine

Pinch of salt

 Let's cook:

Sift flour and salt into a bowl

Heat fat in water slowly, making sure fat melts

Bring to the boil

Remove from heat, add flour, stir well with wooden spoon

Return to heat stirring all the time. Cook until paste leaves side of pan and mixture thickens

Remove from heat

Beat eggs and add little at a time to paste beating in well


Make choux pastry and leave to cool. Place small balls of mixture onto greased baking tray. Bake. Fan oven: preheat 195 deg c, 15-25 mins

Conv. Oven: preheat shelves 2 and 4 220deg c, 15/25 mins

Remove from oven and split to allow the air to escape.
When cold fill with whipped cream

Fill with ½ pint whipped double cream 

Chocolate sauce, served with the profiteroles

50g (20z) plain chocolate, broken into squares

4x15ml spoons (4 tablespoons) golden syrup

15 g (1/2 oz)Stork margarine 

  1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl over a pan of hot water and leave to melt
  2. Beat until smooth and glossy.
  3. Serve with ice-cream, profiteroles,, cooked pears etc
  4. Choc. Rum Sauce – Add 1x15 ml spoon (1tablespoon) rum. (Bundaberg rum of course).
  5. Serves 4

Monday, November 18, 2013

Low Fat French Tarragon and Thyme Omelette for breakfast

Late breakfast this morning following a session at the gym and I needed protein and a good coffee hit. As my barista set to work I started on an omelette. Nothing new you say, however most of the recipes out there , and there are a lot of French omelette recipes, use copious amounts of oil, fat and cheese.

It is now a balancing act between controlling the kilos and the food still tasting great. I use spray on rice bran oil in a non-stick pan, low fat tasty cheese, unless it is a really special occasion and I will substitute goats cheese or Gruyere. A low fat omelette with good fresh ingredients  is also an easy and tasty option when travelling, as retirees do. I am so lucky that I can pick all of my herbs fresh from my garden and they last well refrigerated or in a vase of water. I must source some chervil though, as it's not in my garden at present.

French Herb Omelette for two


4 organic eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or leaves from two good sprigs (your call depending on your love of this flavour)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Ground pepper and salt to taste
Rice Bran Oil cooking spray
6 cherry tomatoes
Handful of chopped mushrooms

Remove the leaves from the sprigs of tarragon and chop finely. Scramble the eggs with the tarragon, thyme, and half the parsley. Spray the oil into a small omelette pan and heat. Saute the mushrooms in the pan until slightly soft. Pour in the omelette mixture over the mushrooms and start cooking. Add a layer of the halved tomatoes to the eggs when slightly set. Cook the omelette until the base is just brown and leaves the pan cleanly with a spatula.

Sprinkle cheese on top and place pan under the grill to lightly brown the omelette.
Garnish with chopped parsley to serve.

Please note: I am using the correct spelling of omelette, not omelet, as it is originally a French word, so it is an omelette.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How to Make the Easiest Baba Ganoush Eggplant Dip

Purple Lebanese Eggplants in my tropical garden, perfect for making Baba Ganouj or Moussaka

 Everyone likes Baba Ganoush. Baba Ganouj (spelled this way as this is how it is pronounced) can be eaten as a dip, a starter, a salad, or a vegetable side depending on its consistency. With its earthy, smoky, garlicky, and nutty flavour, it is best eaten with Lebanese bread. However, dry biscuits or chopped vegetables also taste great with it.

Baba Ganouj is an Arabic term meaning "Father of Pestle". A Levantine dish,  it originates from Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and is made with Eggplant or Aubergine. This is the easiest, healthiest and tastiest  recipe I have found. You will need a Food Processor.


2 large purple eggplants or whatever variety you have on hand
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Let's cook:
  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 180deg.C  or (350deg.F Gas 4).
  2.  Cut 2 eggplants in half lengthwise, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse and pat dry eggplants with a paper towel.
  4. Bake the eggplants for 35 minutes, or until soft and remove the skin.
  5. Place the eggplant flesh in a food processor with 3-4 crushed cloves garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice, and olive oil.
  6. Season to taste
  7. Process for 20-30 seconds, then sprinkle with paprika and serve with Lebanese bread.
Makes 2 cups. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Spray the surface of the dip with Olive oil spray and it will keep covered in the frig for 2 weeks. It will also freeze in a plastic container if the surface has a very thin layer of olive oil covering it.

If you still have lots of eggplant to use up, cook Moussaka.

What is the best and authentic spelling for Baba Ganouj? I like to be authentic, not replicate what Wikipedia uses.

Best wishes,


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fresh Herbs for Healthy Meals and Salads

Thyme, Parsley, Sage, Lemon Balm and Tarragon make a healthy difference to a meal.

Last night I put together a healthy and simple salad to take over to friends for dinner, which not only tasted delicious, but looked very attractive as well, because of the addition of herbs growing in my garden. I added thyme leaves, chopped parsley, finely chopped tarragon, and the yellow tarragon flowers sprinkled across the top gave it a very festive appearance and were edible. It was so easy and drew lots of appreciative comments.

Fresh herbs are so easy to grow, are a great companion crop for the vegetables, and are very economical, stretching the budget.

Fresh Sage is also a winner for beef casseroles and roast chicken stuffing and grows so well near your citrus or with the vegetables. So rewarding, give it a try.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Slow cooker Beef Casserole with Sage

Sage is such an under utilised herb, and whilst it isn't so palatable when it is fresh, it adds a wonderful flavour to beef casseroles, stews, and of course roast chicken. I have two beautiful sage bushes growing in my garden so I am keen to experiment with sage in various recipes. I also love the shape and colour of the leaves which remind me so much of the Mediterranean countries.


2 carrots
2 onions
1/2 capsicum (optional)
1 kg lean beef (chuck or blade steak is ideal)
500g sliced mushrooms
5 leaves of fresh sage thinly sliced ( dried will be ok but don't overdo it)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce                   
3 teaspoons chutney
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cornflour (optional)
1 small bunch parsley

Let's cook:

Peel and slice the carrots. Peel and dice the onions. Remove the seeds and membrane from the  capsicum and dice. Place in the slow cooker with the beef, mushrooms, wine, lemon juice, sauce, chutney, salt and 1/4 cup of water.

Place lid on slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on High or 6 hours on low, or until meat is tender.

If necessary, mix cornflour with 1/4 cup of cold water to a paste and use a little or all of it to thicken the dish.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped parsley to serve.

Note: Use less liquid by removing the red wine, soy sauce and water, and this makes an excellent filling for pies.

What other uses are there for sage? I'd love to know.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Christmas Salad

Mixed salad greens, toasted almonds, red onion and crumbled blue cheese are tossed in a fresh cranberry dressing for an impressive and easy salad.

In readiness for Christmas, here is the Salad which I made last year and was a huge success. It serves 30 so adjust the ingredients to suit the numbers at your table.

360g slivered almonds
2 red onions, thinly sliced
500g crumbled blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola
2 kg mixed salad greens

For the Cranberry Dressing:

180ml red wine vinegar
300 ml extra virgin olive oil
90g fresh, dried (or thawed frozen) cranberries
3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 small clove garlic, minced
1.5 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons water

  1. Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over medium heat - just stir frequently and keep a close watch so that they don't burn, or until nuts begin to brown.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine the vinegar, oil, cranberries, mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and water. Process until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the almonds, onion, blue cheese and salad greens with the dressing until evenly coated.
Salad dressing can be made in advance so that preparation is easier on the big day. This salad can also be decorated with some attractive edible flowers.

Serves 30.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Slow Cooked Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce

This is a family recipe handed down to us by Mr. HRK's cousin, Judy, and originating from Canberra I believe. This always tastes great, and I think the secret ingredient in this recipe is the can of tomato soup. I always substitute fresh herbs instead of the dried ones, if I have them, and I generally do. This sauce is full of flavour and works really well layered in lasagne. I also generally add some finely chopped vegetables such as carrots, zucchini and celery  to increase the amount of vegetables for the family.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Easy Scottish Lentil Soup

This is the easiest lentil soup, from the Scottish highlands, via our friend Callum. For this recipe though you need a Pressure cooker to really do it justice. I have cooked it slowly in a heavy based pot  and it is still delicious.


1/2 mug lentils
2 onions chopped
3 bacon stock cubes crumbled
4 good sized carrots
Cover with water

When cooked add salt and pepper to taste.

Puree to serve and leave as lumpy as you like.

Garnish with coriander, parsley or whatever herbs you have on hand.

There are lots of variations out there for Lentil soup, and I have added pumpkin and other vegetables at times, however this recipe is a good basic soup which also stretches the budget.

Is your Scottish blood stirring?

Middle Eastern Orange and Almond Cake with Orange Syrup and Mint Sugar

Middle Eastern Orange and Almond Cake with Orange Syrup and Mint Sugar

Oranges were bountiful this winter, and we are very fortunate to have access to a beautiful orange tree. Now that I am retired, I have time to freeze the oranges and use later in cakes, desserts etc. Oranges freeze very well. Activity in my kitchen reflects produce that is growing in my garden or what I am given and I love that self sufficient approach. Oranges straight from the tree rather than the supermarket also ensure that they are preservative free.

We are expecting guests over the weekend, so the oranges are cooking in the saucepan and when cooled I will make this wonderful Middle Eastern orange cake recipe. This cake is very moist and quite dense and the cooked peel gives it a tart and seductively exotic flavour. It can also be served with an orange syrup and mint leaves and extra slivered pistachio nuts for a special dessert.

I often cook the basic and more economical version of this cake, without the pistachio nuts, and it is just as delicious. The cake tin selected should be big enough so that the batter is no deeper than 6cm or the cake will take much longer to cook. A 23cm tin suits this recipe.

This recipe is adapted from the wonderful Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion.

"A classic Passover dessert that draws on the Sephardic traditions of the Mediterranean, Morocco and the Middle East. In this recipe whole oranges are boiled for two hours and then puréed skin, pips and all. Not only is this cake incredibly moreish and moist, it is also gluten and dairy-free making it the perfect all-rounder. "  SBS

Serves 8



2 large organic oranges, unpeeled and washed
6 eggs, beaten
250 g ground almonds (almond meal)
250 g white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pistachio nuts, finely ground (optional)

1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves, plus extra to serve
1/2 cup pistachio nuts, slivered
yoghurt, whipped cream or creme fraiche to serve

Orange Syrup:

1 cup orange juice
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon Cortas Orange Flower Water

Cake Method:

Boil the oranges in a little water in a covered saucepan for 2 hours. Allow to cool, then cut open, remove pips and chop roughly.

Preheat oven to 190deg. C and butter and flour a 23cm springform tin. Blend oranges and remaining ingredients thoroughly in a food processor. Pour batter into prepared tin. Bake for 50mins to1 hour. If cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in tin before gently turning out.

Orange Syrup:

For dessert, the cake can be served with an orange syrup flavoured with Orange Flower Water

1 cup orange juice
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon Cortas Orange Flower Water

To make the orange syrup, place orange juice and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium, bring to the boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until thickened to a syrup. Add Orange Flower Water. The syrup could take up to 15 minutes to thicken whilst stirring occasionally and attending to other things in the kitchen. Set aside and it will thicken even more.


Place sugar and mint in a food processor and pulse until combined. Place mint sugar and slivered pistachios in a bowl and toss to combine. Place on top of the cake and serve with orange syrup and crème fraiche, yoghurt or whipped cream.

Or alternatively it can be served with a pile of citrus segments and the best thick cream.

Old Fashioned Apple Crumble

This is my original Apple Crumble recipe which I have been told by my family not to mess with. I know I will be cooking this for the family over the Christmas period sometime, so here it is for easy reference everyone.


4-6 Granny Smith cooking apples
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup water

Fruit Variations
Rhubarb and apple
Tinned apple
Pie peaches
Stewed dried apricots


1 cup plain flour (refined or wholemeal is preferable)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Rolled oats (use a little bit less flour)

Let's cook
  1.  Peel and core apples and slice thinly.
  2. Place in a saucepan with water and simmer gently until soft. Add sugar to taste and stir to dissolve.
  3. Allow to cool then pour into a pie dish, keeping back excess juice.
  4. Place flour in a bowl then rub in butter with the fingertips.
  5. Add sugar, coconut, rolled oats and cinnamon and mix well until good crumbly consistency.
  6. Sprinkle lightly on top of apples.
  7. Bake in a moderate oven until lightly browned on top.
  8. Serve hot or cold with boiled custard .
(I like doing steps 4 and 5 by hand, however you could use the food processor.)

What do you think?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Summer camelia

In my kitchen, the first perfect camelia flower of the season just picked this morning, and what a magnificent fragrance. I wish I could bottle that perfume.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Yummy Homemade Boiled Egg Custard

It is tradition at Christmas time for us to serve this boiled custard with the Christmas pudding. However, it can be served at anytime with any dessert which is complimented by a custard. This is great comfort food.

Bring 2 cups of milk to the boil and add the following and stir:
1 beaten egg
1 dessertspoon sugar

Mix 1 dessertspoon cornflour with about 1-2 tblsp. milk. Pour boiled milk onto this mixture. Return to the saucepan to thicken and then pour into a nice jug.


MaMa's Christmas (Economical) Plum Pudding

This is the best Christmas Plum Pudding I have ever tasted. When my Mum passed on 5 years ago, I took on the family responsibility of cooking the Christmas pudding with some trepidation, however it turned out well, came out of the pudding bowl beautifully, and has remained on the Christmas menu ever since. Phew, what a relief!! It is now time to start thinking about Christmas fare again, and as this tastes better after being left to develop for a couple of months, it's time to start cooking.

1 1/2 lb sultanas
2 oz mixed peel
1/2 lb raisins/8 oz/250g
1/4 lb currants/4 oz/110g
2 oz. Glace cherries/65 g
2 oz Almonds/65g
1/2 lb butter or marg.
3 tablsp. Brandy or sherry (some extra for flambe if you wish)
1/2 lb. Brown sugar
4 eggs
1 grated carrot
6 oz flour
1 level teasp mixed spice
1/4 level teasp. bi-carbonate soda
6 oz. soft breadcrumbs
N.B. Mixed fruit can be used to the equiv. weight of fruit listed above.


Prepare fruits. Add brandy or sherry. Cover. Allow to stand overnight. Cream shortening  (butter) and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beat well with each addition. Add fruit and carrot. Add sifted flour, spice, bi-carbonate of soda and breadcrumbs. Grease pudding steamer well and 3/4 fill with mixture. Seal. If using pudding cloth, flour and tie securely, allowing space for expansion. Place in a saucepan of boiling water with water level about half way up sides of basin. Cook for 4 hours in large pot on gentle simmer being careful not to let the water run dry, cool and keep in cupboard,  and then gently simmer again in the large pot for 2 hours on day of reheating (Christmas Day) .

This should be served with my Yummy Boiled Egg Custard.

Hope's Scotch Pancakes

This was my Mum's recipe and never failed. We often had them for tea on a Sunday night with lemon juice and sugar, which we thought was a real treat back then.

Let's cook:

Mix together 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons cream of tartar. Beat together 1 egg and 1/2 cup sugar.

Mix in 1 cup sweet milk, in which 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda has been dissolved. Add to flour.

Drop in small quantities on a greased girdle.

(This is straight from my Mum's recipe book.)

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate (Oprah Winfrey)

Das Neumann Haus Museum and cafe at Laidley

Visited Laidley in the Lockyer Valley on our way to Toowoomba for a 60th birthday party and discovered the Das Neumann Haus Museum. What a nice surprise when travelling, to be able to buy a tasty lunch of quiche and salad and an excellent coffee for just $10 each. It is only open Thursday to Sunday though as the museum is promoted as the main attraction. The museum reflects the very interesting story of the Neumann family in Laidley since 1893,  where Mr Neumann made violins, church furniture and grandfather clocks. many of which are still in the area.

If you are there when the museum is closed, never mind, as the Laidley Florist Ristique Rose Tea Rooms, whilst closed on Sunday when we were there, looked absolutely delightful through the French doors with a well stocked cake cabinet to die for. The beautiful French inspired decor is unexpected in a small valley town.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coconut Lime Syrup Cake

This cake has become such a firm favourite of ours. We first tasted it at the Groove Café on Ipswich Road in Annerley, Brisbane, Queensland, when we were out having coffee. We wanted to try this café as it has won numerous awards, has an excellent menu, and is unpretentious but serves good food.

I searched and found this recipe which is pretty close to the original, and is such an easy cake to make, with no appliances needed except a saucepan on the stove to concoct the sensational sweet lime syrup. It is nice and light for our hot summers. We also have a potted lime tree which provides us with enough limes for most of our needs.

 It was my turn to host Mahjong today, so I baked this cake and the ladies seemed to like it.



125g butter, chopped
3 eggs, beaten at room temperature
3/4 cup milk at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self raising flour, sifted
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
1 1/4 cups desiccated coconut

Delectable Lime syrup ingredients:

3 limes (1/2 cup lime juice)
Grated lime rind
1/2 cup white sugar

Let's cook:
Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. Lightly grease and line a 6cm deep, 22cm (base) springform cake pan with baking paper.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat or heat uncovered in the microwave on MEDIUM (50%) for 1 to 2 minutes until almost melted. Transfer to a bowl and stand for 1 minute to sightly cool. Add eggs and milk. Stir until combined.

Combine sifted flour, sugar, and coconut in a bowl. Add milk and egg mixture. Stir to combine. Spread mixture into pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Lime Syrup: 
Combine 1/2 cup lime juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until syrupy. Stir in grated lime rind.

Pour hot lime syrup over hot cake. Allow cake to cool in pan before releasing the sides of the cake pan. Cut into slices and serve. 

I read somewhere as well that for a special occasion and perhaps for dessert, a nip of gin can be added to the Lime syrup, which sounds delightful to me.

I think the next time I make this cake I will try this, and enjoy a gin and tonic at the same time. After 4 pm of course.

What other spirits would work I wonder?

Best wishes



Salmon, fresh or smoked, with asparagus and tagliatelle

Salmon, fresh or smoked, with asparagus and tagliatelle
Serves 4-6

Last night I made a variation of a meal that I love, which normally has smoked salmon, tagliatelle and asparagus and is only 520 cal, or 2183 kjs per serve. Instead of the smoked salmon I substituted poached salmon which was beautiful but required some extra herbs and seasonings to give it the burst of flavour that the smoked salmon provides. We are now needing to consume so much omega-3, but honestly I don't take fish tablets, and I need a variety and tasty meals using fish, particularly oily fish like salmon. This recipe requires herbs and you can use what you have that go with fish, but I think the mint is very necessary.

200g smoked salmon, cut into strips or 3-4 nice fillets of fresh salmon
375 g dried or 500 g fresh tagliatelle
2 large bunches or 400 g asparagus trimmed and cut into 5 cm lengths
2 leeks, white part only, rinsed and finely sliced
1 cup salt-reduced chicken or vegetable stock (extra 500ml stock if poaching fresh salmon)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups, (235 g) frozen peas, fresh if you have them
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint (if you really like it add more like I do)
3 tablespoons finely chopped chopped parsley, plus extra to serve
a very large handful of shredded basil, plus extra to serve
dill (optional)
tarragon (optional) , quite strong so be careful
pinch nutmeg ( I like it grated fresh), smells wonderful
2 tablespoons grated fresh parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
1 tablespoon olive oil

Let's cook:

Cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente. Drain well.

If using fresh salmon, set it to poach slowly in a separate deep pan in simmering chicken stock with slices of lemon and added herbs for about 10 mins or until cooked but still firm.

Put the leek and half the stock in a large, deep frying pan. Cook over low heat, stirring often for 4-5 minutes. Add and stir in the peas, mint and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining stock and 125 ml (1/2 cup) water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in the fresh asparagus, parsley and basil and simmer for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the asparagus is just tender, and still crisp. You can gradually increase the heat so that the sauce reduces to a light coating consistency. Gently stir in the grated nutmeg, parmesan and smoked salmon or sliced cooked salmon,  and add a good grind of black pepper.

Gradually add the pasta to the sauce and toss lightly to coat. Serve lightly drizzled with the olive oil, and scattered with a little extra grated parmesan and chopped parsley or basil or whatever you prefer.

There are always leftovers which are delicious heated up the next day.
Luckily I have basil, parsley, tarragon, mint and dill growing prolifically in my garden so I use whatever I wish. Sometimes I add a fresh chilli from my garden depending on who will be eating it. We love it.

I'm sure lots of other flavourings could be used in this dish. Any ideas?

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Purple Lebanese Eggplants in my garden

Recently, our good friend Paul gave me his surplus produce of white eggplants. I also have a few purple Lebanese eggplants which were ready for picking. It was our turn to host the after tennis dinner for 12 so  I was excited at the thought of cooking Moussaka for our friends, and also using all of the eggplants. I checked my cookbooks and the various websites and discovered that Moussaka originated from Turkey as a casserole dish, and was then modified by the Greeks to the more baking dish style that we know.

The recipe I cooked last night was a variation of the SBS food recipe from:
 I made a few basic changes and was relieved when the Ricotta cream layer set. I didn't use the lamb shoulder finely diced and substituted veal and pork mince for the lamb shoulder. I think the quantity of mince could have been increased to 2 kilos for a thicker layer.


1 kg Desiree potatoes
3 large eggplant
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
100g kefalotyri cheese, grated,
(or parmesan)

Ricotta cream layer
500g fresh ricotta cheese
125 g kefalotyri cheese, grated
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
500ml cream
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ried Greek oregano
Braised lamb
 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
750g lamb mince
500 g lamb shoulder, boneless finely diced
2 brown onions, finely diced
2 celery stalks finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1 tsp dried mint ( 1 tbsp. fresh)
1 tsp dried Greek oregano - or fresh is best
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
250 ml red wine ( I would double this quantity)
500 ml tomato puree
500 ml chicken stock


To make the braised lamb, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Brown mince and diced lamb, remove from pan and reserve.
Leave the oil in pan and over a medium heat, cook onion, celery and garlic until translucent. Return lamb to pan and the herbs and spices.
Cook for 1 min then add wine. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Add tomato puree and stock and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Set aside and allow to cool.
Preheat over to 180deg. C. Peel and slice potatoes 1 cm thick. Cook slices in olive oil in a pan until golden but not cooked through. Cook a couple of extra so you can eat them as you go.
Slice eggplant 1cm thick. I salted mine for 30 mins and then wiped the moisture and salt off and dried them. Place on baking sheet in oven, drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for 15 mins until lightly golden.
Spread lamb filling over partially baked potato layer. Cover with baked eggplant slices. Combine all the ingredients for the ricotta cream then spread over the eggplant layer. Sprinkle over the kafalotyri cheese and bake for 40-50mins or until the top is golden brown.
Welcome to my blog

Now that I am recently retired, my passion for food and cooking has floated rather quickly to the surface of my activities. I seem to be cooking more than ever and enjoying great food on a regular basis with our friends. A blog seems the easiest way to record culinary successes and failures, memorable experiences with other foodies, and to list all of my favourite recipes.

I will be travelling more, visiting the children, and of course I can't take all of my recipes with me. I hope that this blog will give me, and family and friends, ready access to all of my recipes.