Sunday, August 28, 2016

GIGANTES or Giant Beans

Greece is on my travel list for the future, however if I can't go there right now, the next best thing is to cook a very typical dish that is eaten in Greece. This is a variation of a recipe from Epirus in Northern Greece where they grow plenty of the giant butter beans called Gigantes, which over there they cook with fresh tomatoes and all kinds of wild greens, and of course lots of olive oil. Sometimes sausages are also added which sounds like a great idea to me, the dish becomes a meal in one. Gigantes means Giants, which gives the name to this dish of giant Greek Lima Beans, and is pronounced yee-gahn-dess. So that is my first Greek word that I have learnt before we travel to Greece. Most of the Greek words I learn will probably centre around food and eating out at restaurants. Isn't that generally the way though?

This dish will feed a crowd and more, and is also a great way of using up fresh tomatoes if you have an abundance. The tinned variety can easily be substituted with fresh tomatoes and I added some fresh oregano from my garden to the tomato sauce as well. Lots of fresh Italian parsley came from the morning Farmer's Market as mine hasn't matured yet.

I would also suggest with this recipe that if you like lots of tomato sauce just double the quantity and use less chicken stock as there will be lots of beans.



½ kg dried lima or butter beans, or Gigantes if you can find them
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups celery, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into cubes
1 410g can of crushed tomatoes
2 onions, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
Fresh oregano
1 pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Litre chicken stock (you may not need all of this)
 Feta cheese


  1. Soak the beans overnight covered well in water which will plump them up. Drain the beans and rinse them again.
  2. Fill a large saucepan with cold water, and add the beans. Don’t add any salt to the water the beans are boiled in or it will toughen them up. Bring the beans to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes then discard the water. Rinse the beans again.
  3. Put the beans back into the same saucepan, and fill with cold water again. The water should be about 2 inches above the beans. Add the bay leaves, celery, capsicum, and carrot, then bring to the boil. When it is bubbling, turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Whilst the beans and vegetables are cooking, cook the tomato sauce. Sauté the onion and garlic in a deep frypan. Add the chilli flakes, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes and paprika. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. Using a ladle, pour the beans into a baking dish and then add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Mix carefully and thoroughly. Add the chicken stock. The mixture should not be like soup but should not be dry either. Bake for 35 minutes, making sure the beans are cooked.
  6. Crumble feta cheese over the top.
  7. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley, noting that the amount of the parsley depends on the quantity of the beans.
  8. Then pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil over the top.
 Do you enjoy Greek food, and if so what is your favourite dish? Do you enjoy cooking with beans?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vegetable cheesy muffins

I rarely buy muffins when I am out having coffee with Mr. HRK or friends as they are too large and tasteless and not very healthy. This recipe makes 12 of what I would call normal sized muffins and if I am really hungry, I just have two of them. I have also discovered the Wiltshire floppy no stick muffin trays available from the supermarkets, which are great for baking muffins and small cakes. No need to grease them, and the muffins just pop out of the holes when gently squeezed from the bottom. Brilliant.

This week I have just been basically doing what needs to be done, because I've been a bit off colour. Since last Thursday I've had a sore throat with a brewing cough and have just felt sick. I am blaming this on our trip to Rockhampton the previous weekend to attend my brother's 60th birthday celebrations. Too much hugging, kissing, and shaking hands at those events, ha, ha,  however it was a lovely night. But there is so much sickness  around so who knows where I really contracted the bug. 

When the going gets tough the tough get going. So yesterday I cooked up my healing slow cooked chicken broth which is now resting in the refrigerator and will become soup tonight, with the remainder as frozen stock.  I also set myself a small challenge this week to find the best recipe I could for vegetable muffins. Not that challenging really but enough of an incentive to lure me into the kitchen and produce something delicious for morning tea with Mr. HRK. Strangely being sick doesn't affect my appetite that much. I have a preference for savoury things for morning tea, and sweet things for afternoon tea, however I can of course manage both together if available. I have been quite addicted to savoury muffins for morning tea during this last week. I also have a batch in the freezer now for visitors or just in case we run out of supplies. After some trial and error this is the recipe which I think produces the most consistent and delicious savoury muffin but which is also very adaptable depending on what I have on hand.

For further variations add a chopped bacon rasher or two, or add a cube of feta or goat's cheese to the middle of each muffin for a nice cheesy surprise. Sky is the limit really. Serve them with a spicy tomato relish and morning tea is on.

Vegetable and cheesy muffin recipe:
Makes 12 muffins

Basic Ingredients:
2 cups sifted S.R. Flour (or 2 cups plain flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and pinch a of salt sifted together)
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or 60g melted butter)
1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese
pinch of salt if not already added

The following ingredients can be varied slightly depending on what vegetables or cheese you have on hand:
1 medium zucchini grated
1 medium carrot grated
1/2 cup sweet corn
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley or any combination of fresh chopped herbs that you like
1/3 cup of  grated parmesan cheese (optional)

(The grated vegetables should amount to about 2 cups of mixture. It's not necessary to be exact. I have omitted the corn in one batch, and the zucchini in another batch and the muffins still work out well. However, the zucchini brings a nice moistness to the mixture and the corn a sweetness and a slight crunch. Broccoli could also be added.)

Let's cook:

  1. Place flour, zucchini, carrot, sweetcorn, basil, parmesan and cheddar cheese in a bowl and coat all of the vegetables well in the flour so that if possible no dry flour remains in the bowl.    
  2.  Whisk milk and eggs together in a separate bowl and add the oil to combine.
  3.   Make a well in the centre of the flour and vegetables bowl and add the whisked milk, oil and eggs.
  4.    Fold the liquid gently into the flour and vegetables until just combined. If the mixture is beaten in too vigorously the muffins will be tough to eat. When lightly folded the whole mixture should come away nicely from the bowl.
  5.   Spoon by the tablespoonful into 2x6 hole muffin trays and then top up and tidy up the muffins after the 12 are basically filled, to use up all the mixture and even up the surfaces.
Remember to serve with a deliciously spicy  homemade or store bought tomato chutney. I like the Outback Spirit Provenance Range of Bush Tomato Chutney.

Bon appetit!

Go straight to recipe from here:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lamb and Pine Nut Meatballs with Moroccan Salad and Tahini Dressing

Moroccan Meatballs
Serves 3-4 small rissoles per serve
480 calories per serve


400g minced lamb (500g will just make a few more for leftovers)
1  onion finely grated or finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1/2 cup (80g) pine nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped, or panko breadcrumbs
1 teasp. ground paprika
1/2 teasp. ground allspice
1 teasp. ground cumin
(or instead of the above spices use 1 teaspoon of ras al hanout spice blend or more if you like it spicy)
1 beaten egg
Small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Salad: (2-4 serves)

100g spinach leaves
1 tbsp. sliced almonds
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tbsp. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon

Tahini dressing: (4 serves)

1/4 cup (70g) good quality tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (definitely not the bottled stuff)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup (60ml) warm water

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the minced lamb, onion, garlic, pine nuts, paprika, allspice and cumin. Add the egg white and mix again.
  2. Stir in the chopped herbs and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Shape the mixture into 6 evenly sized balls.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs over a medium heat, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes, until golden brown on all sides and completely cooked through.
Moroccan Salad:

Place the spinach leaves in a bowl. Add all the other ingredients and toss together. Serve with the meatballs and dream that you are in Morocco.

Tahini Dressing Method:

  1. Add tahini, lemon juice, cumin, sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to taste in a small ethnic style bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Slowly add the warm water until your dressing reaches a creamy consistency, and it will become nice and creamy. I didn't need all of the water but it depends on how thick the tahini is.
  3. Please note:  If you use a good quality tahini from a Middle Eastern shop or deli, the liquid won't have separated from the tahini paste. Unfortunately some of the tahini brands I have tried from the supermarkets have separated and aren't easily mixed back together making the dressing very gluggy.

To serve:

Serve the meatballs with the Moroccan Salad or an Eggplant Salad and the Tahini Dressing. Serve it on small pita breads if you wish.

Lemon Sour Cream Cake

This recipe was included in a school recipe book published as a fundraiser at my children's high school in 1994. Some of the best recipes can be found in these compilations of old family favourites. So does this mean it is a vintage recipe? I'll leave you to be the judge.  When I tasted it again last week after many years, at Mahjong at my friend Lou's house, I knew it was a winner and had to bake it. It is a large cake, with a beautiful texture and the lemon and sour cream combine to take the taste sensation to another level. Absolutely delicious. It works best in a bundt tin or just one of those tins which creates a hole in the middle of the cake, so that the lemon juice absorbs more efficiently over the surface of the cake instead of soaking into the middle. However a normal large springform tin would work just as well. It also freezes well if cut into individual slices and individually wrapped. A good cake to make whilst lemons are in season.


250g butter
2 1/2 cups castor sugar
1/4 cup self raising flour
2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
6 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  1. Cream butter, lemon rind and sugar until light and fluffy. This may take a while.
  2. Beat in eggs one at a time
  3. Stir in sifted dry ingredients alternately with sour cream. Spread mixture into greased deep 23cm round cake tin or well greased bundt tin, and line the base with greased baking paper.
  4. Bake in a moderately slow oven (160 deg C-170 deg C) for 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours.
  5. Remove from the oven, turn out of tin onto a cake plate, and then pour 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice over the top. Sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.
  6. Instead of sifting icing sugar over the top, you could also drizzle lemon icing over the top for more decoration.
  7. Serve with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt on the side.
Dear Reader, Do you still cook some family favourites from old school , CWA and church recipe books? Do you think they can now be called vintage recipes but offer themselves to be revamped for a more 21st century presentation?

Thanks for dropping by,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Whenever I cook this recipe now it reminds me of the very cold Perth winters where I first cooked it this year for the whole family after our little grandson Hugo was born.  The combination of fennel and barley in this beef stew ensures it is a winter warmer and a crowd pleaser. However it is one of those very adaptable recipes, and if fennel isn't in season just add dried fennel seeds instead, or leave the fennel out completely and add 2 rashers of bacon and the juice of an orange for extra flavour and some mixed herbs. This stew doesn't need to be thickened with flour at all as the barley swells and absorbs a lot of the liquid. Delicious and so easy.

This recipe can also be easily adapted to the wonderfully aromatic Middle Eastern flavours by adding harissa paste or spices such as cinnamon, and serving with  couscous.

I prefer to cook this dish in my slow cooker for convenience mainly, particularly in winter, however it can be cooked on top of the stove in a pan for 2 hours until deliciously tender.


2 tsp olive oil
500g Gravy Beef or cubed beef, cut into 3cm pieces
1 brown onion,thinly sliced
1 baby fennel, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
400g can diced or whole tomatoes
2 cups (500ml) beef stock, reduced salt
1/2 cup (100g) pearl barley
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 dried bay leaves

Let's cook:

  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over medium to high heat. Cook the beef in batches, turning occasionally, for 3 mins or until browned all over. Transfer beef to a bowl or the slow cooker.
  2. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and celery to the pan. Cook, stirring for 5 mins until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min or until aromatic. Return the beef to the pan with the tomatoes, beef stock, barley, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Transfer all of the cooked ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or slowly for 6 hours or until the meat is tender, or cook covered for 2 hours in the pan on your stove or until the beef is very tender. Add more beef stock if the stew seems too thick. Season to your taste with salt and ground pepper. Serve with vegetables of your choice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Home again after an amazing road trip around Australia

We are home again after 4 months away on our road trip holidaying around Australia.  Perth was the initial destination and then after 6 weeks based in the Perth Hills we drove back to Queensland.We left in March from Cairns, driving along the Savannah Way to the Northern Territory where we explored Kakadu, Darwin, Litchfield National Park, Katherine Gorge and many other delightful areas camping along the way.  Our road trip continued into Western Australia to Kununurra and Broome and down to Perth. What a magnificent coastline over there. Then after leaving Perth we drove home through South Australia and NSW and back up to Queensland. I can't help thinking as I reminisce and start blogging again about my food experiences during the trip.

Lots of very well cooked and very fresh Barramundi with vegetables or salad was often my choice when we ate out at restaurants in Queensland and the Northern Territory as the weather was still very warm and I love fresh fish. I really tried not to include chips with those meals. Such a trap when you are travelling. I made an exception in Darwin though where it is compulsory to eat crumbed barra and chips on the beach whilst watching the glorious sunsets. I also remember a particularly good Barrumundi dinner in unassuming Burketown, at the Morning Glory Restaurant, owned by a couple of delightful Chinese people, amd after all Burketown is the Barramundi capital of Australia. Well that is what they hang their hat on anyway . Burketown was also where we  bought some very tasty rosemary and camel sausages at the Roadkill Butcher. Catchy marketing is very important in the outback.

When we bedded down in Normanton we drove to coastal Karumba. I was rather excited about eating  the famous Karumba prawns.  So we ordered prawns at the Sunset Tavern and whilst they were very big unfortunately they were rather tasteless. I suspect they had been frozen but never mind it is something you just have to do in Karumba beside the ocean.

Neil enjoying some Karumba prawns with the compulsory beer. It was still hot in
 the N.T.

A shady spot at the Sunset Tavern in Karumba

The Sunset Tavern 

 In the more remote parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory, I couldn't go past a good steak, despite seeing all of the lengthy road trains transporting cattle to market. Then of course there were the delicious and memorable fresh oysters I ate at the Ceduna Hotel in S.A. on the return journey. Ceduna is very famously the oyster capital of Australia.

Delicious oysters in Ceduna, South Australia

When we were camping, it was easy to thaw out one of my prefrozen meals from our car frig and that worked really well. When I needed some pampering and a break from camping, and we stayed in a motel or a cabin, we just thawed out a precooked meal in the microwave when we didn't eat out.

When we arrived in the Perth Hills, I was put straight to work in the kitchen as our first grandchild was only a couple of weeks away from being born, and many family favourite desserts were requested and very welcome in the Perth winter. Myrtille developed very sweet cravings during her pregnancy so cakes and desserts were definitely a priority for her. When little Hugo arrived two weeks later than expected, and then came home a few days later, the slow cooker became my best friend so that I could still have lots of baby cuddles and amongst the mayhem that a newborn baby creates, still produce a nutritious, hearty and delicious meal at the end of the day.
LIttle Hugo only a day old with his very proud  Grandma

A walk in the country around the Perth Hills with proud father Matthew and  little Hugo. Trying out the new pram.
During the whole 6 weeks we were in Perth I continued to make my sourdough bread, which everyone enjoyed, and was a taste of home for me. I am so pleased that I took my sourdough starter Mother in  the freezer of the car frig all around the country with me. I have proved that the starter can be frozen, and then thawed out and used and then frozen again and still work perfectly.

Our son Matthew loves to cook, and still managed amongst the excitement to cook an excellent Lamb Biryani in the Webber, recipe to follow later.

During our whole experience in Perth and particularly after the baby arrived I was so thankful for the recipes on my blog. I cooked a few new creations of course when time permitted, but overall I resorted to what I knew and had already cooked at home. I accessed my blog many times.

I am slowly slipping back into a routine after being away for so long. I've just taken  a large loaf of Viking Sourdough bread out of the oven. New herb and vegetable seedlings are waiting in their punnets to be planted and I am enjoying my garden once again.

What a fabulous journey, the real highlight being the arrival of little Hugo, but it's great to be home and to be warm.