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.

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

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.

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.