Monday, July 27, 2015

Make a simple salad with White Cannellini Beans and a Vinaigrette dressing

This Cannellini bean recipe serves 4. I doubled the quantities as I was serving it as a side for 13 at dinner and there was plenty. If you are doubling the quantities, use a red and a green capsicum, as the two colours look attractive and give a nice contrast in flavours. The whole recipe can also be mixed  together early on the day of serving and kept in the frig, so that is one less thing to do close to the event. 


400g (1-16oz) can White Cannellini Beans (or any other white bean you may prefer)
1 red or green capsicum, or use half of each for colour
1/2 medium very fresh brown onion
6 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar (I used Jamie Oliver)
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt to taste
1 clove garlic (optional)

(Preparation time 10 minutes)

  1. Rinse and drain the can of beans
  2. Chop the capsicum and onion very finely and place into a medium size mixing bowl. Add the beans and mix it all together.
  3. Mix together the red wine vinegar, the olive oil, and the salt and pour into the beans. Taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary, although the flavours will develop so you could do this closer to serving the salad.
  4. If you have some very fresh garlic and you love it, peel and mince 1 clove of garlic, and add it to the mixture and stir. 
This salad contrasts perfectly served with a hot Spanish chicken and chorizo casserole. However it can stand on it's own just served with a green salad. Click on this link for the recipe of the Spanish chicken casserole.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chicken and chorizo casserole, a Spanish twist

Chicken and Chorizo casserole

Spanish food is essentially simple and wholesome, but very tasty. The addition of good quality Extra Virgin olive oil, chorizo, capsicum and tomatoes are all that is needed to transport a simple chicken dish to Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian or wherever you want to be in Spain. Although food in Granada often has a very Moroccan influence as well.


2 tablespoons olive oil
8 chicken thighs
1/2 chorizo, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red onions, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, chopped finely
1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 red capsicums, cut into bite sized pieces
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups passata
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 160 deg C. In a large casserole, heat oil, fry chicken until golden; set aside. Add chorizo, garlic, onions, celery, fry until soft. Add zucchini, capsicum, thyme, wine, passata, and tinned tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Return chicken to pot, season and cover. Cook in oven for 40 minutes; remove lid, cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve with lots of homemade bread and green olives, a nice Spanish Rioja or Tempranillo (red wine).

Adapted from David Herbert's recipe in the Australian Newspaper magazine

Serves 4-6.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Curried Sweet Potato Soup in Winter

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

A very warming soup in Winter, with the intensity of the spices and chilli softened by the beautiful sweet flavours of the lime and the coconut milk. This will also stretch the budget in Winter with Sweet potatoes being very much in season.

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 onions, chopped
4 Australian or locally grown garlic cloves (to support local industry)
4-5cm piece of ginger, peeled or grated
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped and deseeded, or to taste (It is quite spicy using two chillies)
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons curry powder
4-5cm piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated if you have it (optional)
3 sweet potatoes (about 700g) peeled and cut into 2cm dice ( or substitute some pumpkin)
1 litre vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock (depends on whether you are a true vegetarian or not)
400ml can coconut milk
A small handful of coriander, roughly chopped  (I grow it because I love this stuff)
Juice of 1-2 limes ( or a good tablespoonful)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
A few tablespoons plain (full-fat) yoghurt (optional)
A small handful of coriander, roughly torn

Let's cook:

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the spices, the garlic, ginger, chillies, garam masala, and curry powder, and stir for a minute to intensify the flavour.

Tip in the sweet potatoes and stir until they are well coated in the spices. Add some salt and pepper to taste and pour in the stock. Increase the heat and bring to simmering point. Cook gently until the sweet potatoes are very tender, usually about 15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, cool slightly and then puree with a stick blender until very smooth, unless you like the lumps. Return soup to the pan, stir in the coconut milk and warm through on a low heat.

Remove from the heat and add the coriander and lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. 

Serve the soup topped with a good spoonful of yoghurt, scattered with some extra torn coriander, and some homemade sourdough bread. As a final garnish grind some black pepper over the top, delicious!

Thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage for this recipe which I have adapted.
This recipe can be further adapted by substituting the sweet potato for 180g of red lentils, and adding chopped carrot, celery, and a couple of bay leaves to the onions. You might need more stock if using lentils, eg 1.3 litres, and the juice of 1/2 lemon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sticky Date Pudding for a large dinner party


This recipe is great for entertaining a large number of people for lunch or dinner and makes at least 16 serves. It is best to bake this in a large ceramic baking dish. When the temperatures plummet, as they have even in North Queensland, what could be better than a delicious, warming dessert, served with ice-cream of course and this amazing Caramel Sauce. 

This is Berenice's recipe, an ex-teaching colleague of Mr. DIY, and this is how it was served at the Second Semester  Retiree Teacher's Lunch that we attended. Just halve the ingredients for a smaller number of people. So simple, it's a winner.


340 gm Dates
3 tspns Bi-carbonate soda
600 ml Water
340 gm Castor Sugar
340 gm SR Flour
4 Eggs
125 gm Butter

Boil dates 5 mins in water. Remove from heat and add sugar, butter and bi-carb. Cool. Add eggs and fold in flour. Bake in Moderate oven for 1 hour.
(Makes a very large quantity – at least 16 serves.)

Caramel Sauce


125 gm Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Water
2 tblspns Golden or Maple Syrup
¼ cup Cream
1 ½ tblspns Corn Flour

Combine butter and sugar and stir over low heat until mixture turns to thick syrup. Bring to boil. Simmer 3 minutes. Combine water, syrup and cornflour and add to mixture. Stir until boiling. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream.

For another dessert perfect to serve at a party with the Sticky Date Pudding, the
Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake works a treat. For the recipe click on this link.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rosella (Wild Hibiscus) Harvest and making Rosella jam

Click here for the link on how to make Rosella Jam.

The Rosella Harvest has finished for another year. It has been one of my slower weeks, where I have had a head cold and have been trying to really look after myself so that it doesn't develop into anything nastier. So homemade chicken soup, Inner Health Immune Booster tablets, the occasional whisky to soothe the throat (it really works), lots of veges, indulgent reading, Rosella jam on toast from last year's produce, watching Wimbeldon, and I am feeling as if I am on the road to recovery today.Thank goodness the Antarctic blast hasn't reached us up here yet. It might get slightly colder but it is magical weather here today.

 So a nice and economical piece of Corned Beef is cooking in the Slow Cooker, and I have just harvested all of my Rosella plants, only four plants, but certainly enough rosellas I think to make an adequate quantity of jam. This will be my second batch this year, the first batch only yielded a few bottles, but before the jam making begins, a time consuming task now to remove the rosella pods from the stalks and separate the seeds from  the calyx using the special device my Mr. DIY made me especially for the task last year. We can only eat so much rosella jam, as much as we love it, so I think I will look at how to develop cake and dessert recipes to use some of it very productively. Or, should I make some Rosella tea, or cordial, is it worth pursuing? The Rosella seeds and calyxes will keep in separate containers in the frig for up to two weeks, so I have the time to decide what to do with them.

If anyone has any ideas on how to incorporate Rosella jam into cakes and desserts, please let me know. I am thinking it would marry quite nicely with chocolate, but then what doesn't.

Click on this link for my recipe on how to make Rosella Jam,

Monday, July 6, 2015

Chilli Con Carne with Minced Beef


Chilli Con Carne is a favourite dish in Winter in the Tropics, as it seems too hot in Summer to really spend the time cooking it, or consider eating it, although aromatic curries are still popular all year round. There are lots of recipes which use slow cooked shredded shin beef or chuck steak as a base for the Chilli, however with the rising cost of beef, and if you are entertaining a crowd, or if time is at a premium, using minced beef is a very suitable substitute and doesn't compromise on flavour at all. However, if you are entertaining your boss, or entering a cooking competition, or cooking for a very special occasion, I would go for quality and texture and opt for shredded slow cooked beef.

Also be aware that when cooking this dish that "some like it hot", and some do not. Serve plenty of water just in case.


1 tbsp oil
1 large onion
1 red capsicum
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon Mexican Chilli Powder, Medium strength (or 1 level tsp of hot chilli powder)
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
500 g lean minced beef
1 beef stock cube
400 g can tomatoes
2 tbsp homemade or commercially bought tomato sauce (no added sugar), or tomato puree
1 tsp sugar (only use if you have used tomato puree)
410 g can red kidney beans
Sour cream to serve
Long grain boiled white or brown rice to serve
Corn chips


  1. Chop the onion finely. Chop the capsicum into small pieces after removing the seeds and stalk. Peel and finely chop or mince the garlic cloves.
  2. Heat your pan on the stove over a medium heat. Add the oil and heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions, and cook whilst stirring regularly for 5 minutes, or until the onions are slightly translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, red pepper, chilli powder, ground cumin, and ground paprika. Stir it well and cook it for another 5 minutes so that the spices release their aromatic flavour.
  4. Add the mince to the pan and brown it on a medium high heat so that it browns rather than just stewing in its juices. This should take about 10 minutes whilst you stir and break it up with a spoon.
  5. To make the sauce, crumble 1 beef stock cube into 300ml of hot water. Pour this into the mince mixture in the pan. Add 1 can of chopped tomatoes and stir through. Add sugar if needed and salt and pepper to season. Just a good shake should be enough. Squirt in the tomato sauce and stir the sauce well.
  6. Simmer the sauce gently and bring it to the boil. Stir well,  and put the lid on the pan. Leave the mixture to gently simmer for 20 minutes. Check on the pan regularly to ensure it doesn't dry out or stick to the pan. Simmer until the sauce is thick and a nice rich colour.
  7. Drain and rinse the red kidney beans. Stir them into the chilli mixture. 
  8. Bring the mixture to the boil again and cook gently without the lid for another 10 minutes. Have a taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it. If it is too dry add a little more water but it should be fine.
  9. Your chilli is now cooked. Replace the lid, take the pan off the heat, and leave the chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the flavours to settle and improve.

Serve with corn chips, boiled rice and sour cream.