Thursday, March 30, 2023

Herbed Mushrooms on Home Baked Toasted Sourdough

The unique umami of edible mushrooms combined with fresh herbs, garlic and balsamic vinegar shines through in this recipe in both taste and nutritional benefits. Essentially it is a simple dish to make but every element within brings wonderful savoury richness to the plate. This recipe evolved after I had baked two loaves of rye sourdough bread in the morning. I felt like celebrating the success of the bread with a tasty lunch to compliment toasted sourdough. When mushrooms are in the vegetable crisper, they are the obvious choice for a very tasty meal. Mushrooms are quick and easy to cook with and they complimented the unique flavour of the rye sourdough perfectly. The best rule with mushrooms is to prepare them as little as possible and eat them as soon as possible. That's what we did. I just love them.

Portobello mushrooms are just large Swiss brown mushrooms. They are a dark brown very firm mushroom with full-bodied flavour, ideal for filling with other ingredients, for barbecuing, for chopping and frying, and love to be the hero of a dish like this one. Some say it is the original form of mushroom, before market preference developed for the white mushroom. Strangely though I generally find at the supermarkets that the Portobello mushroom is more expensive than the white capped mushroom. I always use the stems and the caps of mushrooms, but the stems need to be chopped quite finely. This dish is a celebration of the mushroom and will be a perfect meat free Monday dish or lovely for a Sunday brunch.


280 g Portobello mushrooms (around 4 large) or equivalent in other mushrooms, sliced.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 thin slices rye sourdough bread

1 garlic clove peeled and crushed.

4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 small handfuls of fresh parsley, with just the leaves roughly chopped

4 thin slices goats cheese (around 80 g), or soft goats cheese sprinkled over the mushrooms


Frying the mushrooms. Add the oil to a large non-stick frying pan, bring to a high heat and fry the chopped mushrooms until just browned, while stirring continuously. (This should take 3-4 minutes)

Thyme and garlic.  Add the thyme leaves and garlic to the mushrooms and cook for 30 seconds. Give them a good stir.

Toast the sourdough bread. Meanwhile toast the bread during the next step.

Add the vinegar, then the parsley, and toss quickly with the mushrooms.

Assembly. Butter the sourdough toast and place the delicious umami flavoured mushrooms onto the toast. Sprinkle with some finely chopped parsley.

Place the goat's cheese on top of the mushrooms, and garnish with a generous grinding of black pepper. 

Serve with extra slices of goat's cheese and a drizzle of olive oil if you wish.

One of two of my latest loaves of sourdough bread. It was really good to eat fresh.

My Sourdough Bread Recipe

This is my basic Sourdough bread recipe that I use most of the time now. I've refined it since I first started baking sourdough, which was nearly 10 years ago. This makes two medium sized loaves of bread. We eat one and freeze the other one sliced to avoid wastage. A loaf of sourdough really needs to be eaten within 3 days for ultimate freshness. No problem in our house.


380 g of Bakers Flour (I mostly use the Laubke Rye flour now because I don't eat grains and I love the Rye flavour) but any breadmaking flour can be used.
120g of Other Normal Flour (Normal Plain flour or 1/2 and 1/2 Plain and Wholemeal)
10g salt (no more)
100g of Sourdough starter or Desem which I have been fermenting for a couple of days
290g water (Best results obtained with warm boiled or distilled water)
20g good local honey (I use our own delicious honey from our beehive)
30 g Macadamia or Vegetable Oil (any oil can be used but I have found Macadamia is lighter with a nicer flavour but it can be more expensive)


Mix the Desem with the lukewarm water to which you add in the oil and the honey making a kind of slurry.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and combine well. (I generally don't sift anymore, just stirring it all together is ok.)
Add the Desem, water, oil and honey mix to the flour and combine well with a large spoon. Rest this dough for 10 minutes in the bowl.
Turn the dough mixture onto an oiled or floured bench and kneed gently for about twenty seconds folding the dough over itself rather than pounding it.
Knead again gently and place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a moist tea towel or a fitted shower cap.
Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow the dough to make a 50% rise. This works best if you allow the rise to happen slowly overnight in a warm spot.
When the dough has risen, take it from the bowl, knead it again gently on a floured bench, and place your dough in a lightly oiled bread tin.

My previous post in 2017 on how to bake sourdough bread can be found at this link. I've made a few changes to my method since then, such as I now rise my dough overnight in our warm laundry room and bake it in the morning after kneading and another rise of a few hours. This recipe isn't suitable really for the more artisan rustic style loaf which has the nice holes in it and the very crusty surface and is high-hydration sourdough. My recipe makes good bread for slicing for everyday use and is more a low-hydration mixture. However, I have made the high-hydration artisan style loaves as well though. I'll try and do a post on that process in the future.

My cooking notes:

  • Parsley is such an essential herb in any kitchen, and brings it's unique flavour to most savoury dishes, not to mention it shines through in photographs. However, I need to be honest with you here, I didn't have any on hand in the kitchen when I cooked this dish. I had everything else, and after baking bread, etc. I didn't have a trip to the supermarket left in me. But flavour wise, I didn't miss it, the thyme filled the gap perfectly. Presentation wise, yes, I did miss it and no doubt there would have been even a little more flavour with parsley included. So please try and imagine a prettier photo with beautiful green chopped parsley for a garnish if you can.
  • I only had soft goats' cheese on hand which doesn't slice well, however pieces shredded over the top of the dish worked beautifully. I love, love, love goat's cheese and use it whenever I can. However sliced and grilled or fried haloumi would also work well in this dish. 
  • Umami is a Japanese word meaning "pleasant savoury taste". This dish has it in spades. The darker the mushrooms, the more the umami. Umami's ability to enhance flavour also gives it a few distinctive health benefits, including letting us cut back on salt without reducing flavour. (Carrie Dennett, registered dietitian nutritionist, writing for the Seattle Times, 14.09.2016.)
  • Portobello Mushrooms are large and darker in colour and have more beneficial umami when cooked and taste great.
  • Mushrooms can also taste somewhat meaty.
  • There's no need to wash or peel any mushroom, whether cultivated or wild. Just wipe away any dirt with a damp cloth.  Oh, to be able to forage for wild mushrooms in the forest, however you need to know what you are doing to avoid the poisonous ones. It's on my bucket list. 
  • I have always been fascinated by mushrooms, even the "poisonous" ones that emerge in our garden and lawn after rain, because they are invisible one day but by the next are pushing though the leaf mulch and the earth all dewy and damp, begging to be collected, but no, don't be tempted unless you are with an expert.
  • Not everyone is a bread baker, or sourdough bread baker. However good quality sourdough bread can be purchased now at many Farmer's Markets, and I've noticed that Coles supermarket (no promotion intended) now sells 30-hour baked sourdough which is really good, for around $7.00 a loaf, which in my books is still expensive but justifiable for an occasional treat. My sourdough loaves are prepared over at least a 30-hour period so I'm not sure how long the Coles ones actually take to bake but long and slow on a low heat is always preferable for maximum nutritional benefits from the sourdough yeast.
  • Is your sourdough starter ready to bake with? It might have some bubbles in it but is it ready? To test if your sourdough starter is ready to use to bake with after fermenting for a couple of days, place a teaspoon of starter in a glass of water, and if it floats to the top, it is ready to use. It's like magic.
  • I reckon that the tangy, slightly acidic taste of sourdough bread due to the presence of lactic acid and acetic acid in the sourdough starter, is the perfect base for this mushroom dish. My bread isn't too strong in those flavours.
Happy cooking,

Warm wishes


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Salmon Rissoles with a delicious Herb and Spiced Yoghurt Dressing

Call them Salmon rissoles, fish cakes, fish rissoles, or salmon cakes, they've been called all of these names over the years, because this is a retro recipe which I've been eating as long as I can remember. I've revamped these with a few optional ingredients, but the basic combination of mashed potato, beaten egg, flour, breadcrumbs and tinned red salmon remains the same. I know many cooks resist frying in hot oil if they can bake instead, as I do, but I need no convincing to fry them when the result is a delicious crunchy panko crumb crust and a soft, adorable fishy middle of buttery slightly chunky potato and chunks of salmon. I've tried baking these, admittedly I baked them crumbed, and the results were quite average compared to frying them.

This is a meal on a budget. What separates this recipe from many of the ones out there now is that I've used tinned red salmon, not fresh fish. A can of salmon and 750 g of spuds can feed up to 8 people. The last time I cooked these I made 10 rissoles. We are constantly hearing now about the rising cost of living, and how difficult it is for many families to put a meal on the table. Food on a budget doesn't need to compromise on flavour. For starters, who doesn't love the taste of fried food, unfortunately a lot of it in the form of fast food just isn't healthy. These salmon rissoles are both nutritious for the whole family and tasty and cheap and cheerful.

Frying your salmon rissoles. Cooking fish rissoles requires a certain technique because the mixture is soft and can break up in the frying pan. However, a few essential steps will prevent that from happening. Before cooking, the rissoles must be refrigerated first for at least an hour to firm them up, the longer the better. Assemble them in the morning, refrigerate them covered for the whole day and then cook them for dinner that night. The oil in the pan needs to be hot, and I prefer vegetable oil to olive oil for frying these. I started mine with just a few in the pan, with the heat set on moderately high at no. 7 on my electric stovetop and cooked one side until I could see it was golden brown and firm and crisp. Then carefully turn them over until the other side is also golden brown and crispy, lower the heat, flatten the rissoles slightly with a spatula and cook them for a further 5 minutes on a lower heat. Remove those onto a plate covered with paper, to drain, and continue cooking.

2nd Cooking option

Just douse the fishcakes in flour, instead of in egg and breadcrumbs.

I tried frying them with just a coating of flour, not coated with egg and breadcrumbs and they turned out really well but I still prefer them cooked in egg and breadcrumbs. Just saying.



415 g can red salmon, drained and flaked quite coarsely

750 g waxy potatoes such as Desiree, peeled, chopped coarsely.

1 lightly beaten egg

3 green onions, chopped finely

2 tablespoons chopped dill or parsley

2 tablespoons drained baby capers

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

1/2 cup (35 g) fresh breadcrumbs (panko breadcrumbs could be used)

plain flour, for dusting

vegetable oil, for shallow frying

2 beaten eggs for coating in egg and breadcrumbs

Panko breadcrumbs

lemon halves, salad leaves, for serving

Herb & spiced yoghurt to serve


Cook the potatoes as you wish. Boil them, steam them or microwave them until cooked and tender. Drain and cool. I prefer to boil them; it doesn't take very long.

Remove potatoes from the saucepan, place in a large shallow bowl, and coarsely mash them with a fork. They don't need to be finely mashed as you would for mashed potato. Leaving some slightly larger chunky pieces brings added texture to the salmon rissoles.

Add the drained salmon, egg, dill, green onions, capers, lemon rind, and stale breadcrumbs.

Season the mixture with some sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Stir it all together to combine, trying to leave some chunks of salmon in there as well.

Wash and dampen your hands, wear light plastic gloves if you prefer but I like to handle the food.

Select about 1/2 cup of mixture at a time, and shape into 8 rissoles. Mine made 10.

Coat each rissole in egg and breadcrumbs. Coat rissoles in seasoned flour, then dunk each one in beaten egg. Then roll each rissole in Panko breadcrumbs.

Refrigerate the rissoles. Place the rissoles onto a paper lined tray and refrigerate for 1 hour if possible.

Heat 2 cm oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat; cook rissoles, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden brown. 

Place cooked rissoles on a paper line plate to drain or on a cake rack over a try.

Keep warm in a low oven on 50-100 deg C. until ready to serve.

Herb and spiced yoghurt to serve:

Scrape the seeds from a long fresh green chilli and chop it up coarsely.

In the food processor, blend the chilli, 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, 2 cloves crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin until finely chopped.

Add 1 cup Greek-style yoghurt to the food processor bowl and give it a quick whizz to combine, closing the vent of the lid as you do so. Taste and season.

The yoghurt recipe was provided by The Australian Women's Weekly.

This Herb and Spiced yoghurt was perfect with the rissoles, I just loved it, and I had all of the ingredients on hand. It was so simple to make. However, Aioli, or traditional tartare sauce are also popular with fish cakes and seafood, and lemon must be served with them. 

Fish rissoles whether made with tinned salmon or tuna, shouldn't be expensive to make. They can be fancied up even further, by adding even more flavorsome ingredients like garlic, different herbs, or an onion instead of spring onions, however, cook those first. My Mother used to make them for goodness' sake, and I still love them. To my way of thinking, salmon or any fish rissoles must contain mashed potato. It's essential. I think any ordinary type of potato will do. No need to be particular with the potato, this is meant to be an economical meal and even potatoes are expensive these days. Cooked salmon rissoles are also suitable to freeze for an easy night on the run. 

Serve with a fresh salad and figs as an option as they are in season, the yoghurt dressing, lemon halves, beetroot relish for some extra colour and flavour on the plate and this will be a meal you will remember and want over and over again.

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Warm wishes


Monday, March 20, 2023

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Coffee Buttercream

"If the answer is chocolate, who cares what the question is."

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Coffee Buttercream

I'm in "Chocolate Heaven" with this cake. I might have mentioned previously that I've been working through chocolate cake recipes in my quest to find what I think is the perfect chocolate cake for all occasions, my go-to no fuss chocolate fudge cake, my signature cake. This is it for now, my perfect chocolate cake. MasterChef Winner Emelia Jackson says that this cake will always produce the same amazing result, whether it be for a birthday party, or a casual get together with friends where dessert is required, just decorate it accordingly. Dress it up with a heavenly ganache or go simple with a dusting of cocoa or icing sugar, and a serving of cream. Bake it into cupcakes, use it in a trifle, loaf cakes, there is no limit to how you can bake it or use it. Instant coffee is the secret weapon in this cake, it enhances the flavour of the chocolate without adding its own coffee flavour. I also like that there's no melted dark or milk chocolate in this cake batter, just rich, dark Dutch cocoa.

I have been debating whether or not to post this recipe just yet as there is another buttercream that I would like to fill and cover this cake with, and hopefully that is coming when the weather continues to cool down. I'll let you know when that happens, because Emelia's Malted Buttercream that I'm talking about looks like a real showstopper for a special occasion. This cake recipe is extracted from "First Cream the Butter and Sugar", by Emilia Jackson, and I can't wait to try some more of her recipes, because I love this cake. Needless to say, I couldn't wait and had to share the recipe with you.

Mahjong table setup in the air-conditioning and waiting for my Mahjong friends to arrive.

I chose to make Nigella Lawson's Coffee Buttercream this time because I love it, and I've made it before with a different chocolate cake recipe. I was in a bit of a rush because I'd made this cake for the Mahjong afternoon tea at home, it comes around quickly, and I wanted a buttercream that I could depend on when made in advance. Even though the air-conditioning was on at home the day I iced this cake, there were a lot of other things going on around me. Aren't there always though?


Makes a 20 cm two tier cake 

380 g light brown sugar

250 g cake flour (store bought or see tip below for making your own)

100 dark Dutch cocoa powder (I used Plaistowe premium Dutch processed from Woolworths)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

200 ml boiling water

100 ml neutral-flavoured oil, such as vegetable or canola

200 g sour cream

4 eggs

chocolate shavings to garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C (140 deg. C fan forced)

Line two 20 cm round cake tins with baking paper

Whisk the brown sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt to ensure that there are no lumps. (No need to sift)

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water in a largish jug, then add the oil, sour cream and eggs and whisk until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Fold until just combined. We want a lovely tender cake, with a good crumb, overmixing will prevent this from happening.

Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 50 minutes. This was perfect for my oven but test it with a skewer inserted into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Leave the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Pauline's baking notes:

Adding coffee to the cake batter enhances the flavour of the chocolate. You can't taste the coffee.

What I also love about this cake is that it doesn't sink in the middle as some do.

Cake flour: After making this cake, I am really on board with using cake flour, for a superior and tender cake crumb. Cake flour is a low protein flour that creates a very tender fluffy and light cake. You can make your own. Just measure out 430 g plain flour, then add 70 g corn flour and sift together. By adding the corn flour, the gluten content in the plain flour is reduced from 11 per cent to between 7 and 9 per cent. (Emelia Jackson). I've started making it in a large batch so I am always prepared for a cake making session.

For medical reasons the only nuts I eat now are walnuts as they are the softest nut, so I didn't add any chopped nuts to the photo of the cake. However, it looks and tastes lovely with chopped pistachios on top of the buttercream.

Nigella Lawson's coffee buttercream

Generally, when I make icing for a cake, I just do it the traditional way as I have always done and add the ingredients until it looks, feels and tastes right. However luscious Buttercream is a different story so I followed this recipe.


350g icing sugar.
175g soft Unsalted Butter. softened
Instant Espresso Coffee Powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons, dissolved in 1 x 15ml tablespoons just-boiled water
(All of my tablespoon measurements are 20ml and that is what I probably used in this recipe with no problems)
This icing is a cinch to make in a food processor. Because it is warmer and more humid where I live than where this recipe was probable tested, I thought I might have problems with the icing melting all over the cake, but it held its consistency beautifully.

  • Pulse the icing sugar in your food processor a few times to remove any lumps but make sure the feeding funnel on the lid is covered so that icing dust doesn't fly everywhere:)
  • Add the softened butter and blitz to mix, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
  • With the motor running again, pour the coffee down the funnel of the processor and quickly blitz. Remove the blade carefully and scrape down the blade with a spatula.
  • Place one of the cakes on a serving plate or stand, flat side up. It is probably better to place the highest cake as the base. Spread the lower layer generously with half the coffee butter cream, then make a sandwich with the second layer, with the top of the cake facing upwards.
  • Pile the rest of the buttercream on top and use a wide icing knife or spatula to spread the icing, over the cake. Nigella uses the word "swirlingly" to describe this technique which I love.

The bottom layer of the Chocolate Fudge Cake is iced. 

One iced layer of the cake might be enough for morning or afternoon tea, so sometimes with a double layer cake I freeze one of the layers for another occasion.

This is a different chocolate cake recipe that I made a few years ago when I used the Coffee buttercream as well.

Cake bakers say that money can't buy happiness, but a divine chocolate cake can. Decorate as you wish. I sometimes use smashed pistachio nuts, or you could use chocolate covered coffee beans as Nigella Lawson did or white chocolate buttons for contrast. It is your choice.  There is so much to choose from.

I think I need to tell you all that I'm not a chocaholic, in fact I rarely eat chocolate at all, however I love a delicious chocolate cake. How about you?

Warm wishes, 


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Moroccan Baked Chicken with Fennel and Chickpeas, it's a delicious Traybake

You all know me, and by now you know that I love to prepare a delicious and simple chicken traybake for dinner. It takes a lot of the pressure off when you are entertaining friends, leaving you time to enjoy their company. I love my oven.  Even more, I love a traybake that is loaded with flavour and is very easy to prepare. Moroccan food is packed with flavour from all those heady exotic spices, such as baharat, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric and ginger. Fresh Fennel, a vegetable which originates from the Mediterranean region, brings its unique flavour to this dish, please don't skimp on it. 

The Fennel wedges will complement the spices beautifully and be part of the bounty of vegetables you bring to the table with the chicken along with its unique aniseed flavour. Fennel is easy to find on the vegetable shelves right now. This is a vegetable that has come of age, it wasn't around when I was growing up in Central Queensland. Gosh, I've used the word flavour 4 times in this first paragraph, and that's because there is plenty of it in this dish. Fennel is at it's best from mid-Autumn to Winter in Australia, so I'm making the most of it as often as I can.


Serves 5

5 x 220 g (or so) skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, or legs if you prefer.

250 g cherry tomatoes

1 medium-large fennel bulb, top trimmed off, base halved and cut into 2 cm wedges (or there abouts).

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp each cooking salt and black pepper


1 tbsp Baharat spice mix

1 tsp each ground cumin and smoked paprika

1 tsp cooking salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 garlic cloves finely minced.

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 tbsp (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil


2 x 400 g cans chickpeas, drained

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/4 tsp each ground turmeric and ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp each cooking salt and black pepper


1/4 cup (3 g) coriander leaves

Let's Cook:


Mix the marinade ingredients in a large zip lock bag or non-reactive ceramic bowl. Add the chicken. In the bowl, massage the chicken with the marinade and cover the bowl (which is what I did), or seal the bag, remove the air, and massage the chicken in the bag. Marinate for 24 hours in the frig., or 4 hours at the very least.

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C (fan forced) or 200 deg C.


Prepare your chickpeas for the tray bake by tossing all the ingredients in a bowl to combine.

I soak and cook the chick peas from scratch from dried chick peas and always have some cooked ones lurking around in the back of the frig, but by all means use the canned chick peas.

To cook your own dried chick peas from scratch:

Cook up a whole packet of chickpeas after soaking them overnight in a large bowl filled with water. Bring a large saucepan of water containing the chickpeas to the boil, then simmer them until they are tender, for about an hour, or until a couple of shells are just starting to separate from the chickpea. Drain and reserve the water they were boiled in. I often sprinkle a few dried herbs in the pot of boiling water to add more flavour. If you wish to make hummus, the softer the chickpeas the better for a creamy hummus.

Here's the link to my recipe for Classic Chickpea Hummus from scratch.

Chickpeas draining in the colander after I have cooked them.

Prepare the fennel and tomatoes by tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper in another bowl.

Baking the chicken

Place the chicken on a large baking tray measuring approx. (40 cm x 30 cm), always skin side up, and dab on any marinade left in the bowl or bag. Surround the chicken with the chickpeas, take the fennel from the bowl and drop it randomly around the chicken.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Using oven mitts, remove the hot baking tray from the oven. With a large spoon, mix the chickpeas and fennel around in the tray, to coat with the juices, and there will be a lot of delicious juices by now. Then with a basting brush, dab juice onto the chicken skin. 

Randomly scatter the oiled-up tomatoes around the chicken. These will add a pop of colour and flavour to the dish.

Bake for a further 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked, and golden.

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

To Serve:

There will be lots of delicious juices in the pan. Spoon the juices over the chicken again.

Wash and dry coriander leaves, and scatter over the chicken and vegetables.

Encourage everyone at the table to spoon extra juice over their meal as well.


So begins the dilemma of whether or not to select chicken thighs with the skin on and bone in. In my books, there's no decision to be made, but for those of you that are against skin on and bone in the chook, please don't disregard this recipe, all of the exotic herbs and spices will do the trick if you prefer no skin.

Use the leftover fennel stalks for stews and soups or a fine leaf garnish! We can't waste fennel.

I just used black pepper out of a bottle, not my grinder to make life easier, and that worked well, providing plenty of flavour.

Please don't skimp on the fennel. More is better in this recipe.

The number of chicken thighs can be increased to feed more people if necessary. Depending on how many you add, you might need to increase the measurement of the spices accordingly and add more fennel and tomatoes. However, you will be limited by the size of your baking dish.

Once the chicken is cooked, the meal can be kept warm in your oven at 50 deg. C until ready to serve.

I've baked this dish three times now, and each time it has tasted even better than the last with small changes I've made. So here are the results of the last time I made it.

This recipe is based on another one from Nagi Maehashi's latest hit cookbook, Dinner. I'm working my way through it.

Warm wishes,


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Creamy French Chicken Tarragon (Poulet a l'Estragon)


I chose to make this Creamy French Chicken Tarragon because it is something of a classic French dish, and as I will be visiting my family in France soon cooking some of their dishes is part of my preparation for the journey. This dish includes chicken thighs cooked in a flavourful creamy tarragon sauce and it's a cinch to make. Cream, butter and white wine are no strangers to a French kitchen. Perhaps though I should be really honing up on some Aussie dishes that I know my son will want me to cook for them and perhaps for any of their visitors as well. That is generally how it works isn't it? 

However, one of the biggest challenges I find when trying to replicate traditional cuisine from an overseas country is getting my hands on the authentic ingredients and in particular the herbs they use. Tarragon presented the biggest challenge for me this time. Obviously in France, French tarragon is grown and used everywhere. We grow tarragon in our garden here at home, and it grows very well and that's what I used in this recipe. I was rather disappointed that the usually assertive aniseed flavours of the tarragon weren't as strong as I had hoped for in this dish. After some research I've come to the conclusion that we are growing Mexican tarragon, which makes sense given our climate. French tarragon would die off in Winter apparently and not thrive like ours does. The other variety is Russian tarragon, and it wouldn't thrive here either. Russian tarragon is really considered to be an impostor by French chefs. However, all is not lost, as I can still use the Mexican variety, just slightly differently. It loses some of its flavour during a long cooking process, so it's better to add it closer to the end of the cooking time. I've given stacks of it to friends to use in their cooking and they've always been happy, I was just a little underwhelmed with the tarragon flavour, which is also a little like licorice, which is the essence of this dish. However strangely, the following day, I thought that leftovers had improved in flavour, which is often the way. Either way it is still a delicious dish, but if you can get your hands on French tarragon, that is the preferred option. Avoid the Russian imposter stuff if you can.

Dried tarragon is available at our supermarkets, and the brand I saw originated in Holland, so I'm sure that is authentically the French variety and could be used instead of the fresh herb. I'll give that a try next time I make this and there will be a next time. Now that I've got my tarragon woes off my chest, let's move on.

I've used a few recipes for inspiration for this dish, but my main thanks should go to Audrey, writer of Pardon your French, whose blog I follow.

6 servings


For this recipe you will need an enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven, or large skillet with a lid which can transfer from the stove-top to the oven.


6 large chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 French shallots, or 1 medium onion, finely diced.

2 garlic cloves grated or minced.

2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, plus whole leaves for garnish.

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest


Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and season generously with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.

Turn on your oven to heat up to 190 deg. C or 375 deg. C with the rack in the middle.

Heat up your oven-proof Dutch oven or skillet, with the butter. We want sizzling butter in the pan, and then place the chicken thighs in, skin-side down. The chicken needs to cook for about 10 minutes and resist the urge to prod it or turn it. Allow it to cook until the chicken skin is golden brown, and the chicken is 3/4 done. It will be just firm and will smell divine.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil.

The chicken drippings are so important to the overall flavour of the dish, so keep the pan hot and add the shallots and garlic until slightly caramelized.

Embed the chicken thighs back into the pan, on top of the shallots or onion if you are using. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.

Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon.

Add the stock and wine and bring to a simmer.

Put the lid on and place the pot on the middle shelf of the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered, or until the thighs are tender.

Cook's notes and substitutions:

As you can see from the photos, I only used 4 chicken thighs for this recipe as that is what I had, and I was only cooking for the two of us. There was plenty of delicious creamy tarragon sauce to partner with leftovers.

I couldn't find any French shallots here when I needed them, so I used spring onions from our garden. I was concerned a normal onion might be too strong for this dish. However, I wouldn't recommend that you use spring onions as a substitute, I think more of the allium flavours are needed to balance with the cream.  If you can't find French shallots, use a normal onion, there will still be lots of flavour. 

I don't recommend freezing this dish.

I prefer using creme fraiche over cream, but either will do.

The chicken and remainder of the sauce reheated beautifully the following day and had even more flavour.

Leaving the skin on the chicken is essential. The skin can be removed from the chicken if you wish and if you are watching the fat content in the dish, but some of the flavour will be lost.

Skin on chicken legs can be substituted for thighs for this dish.

Choose a white wine that is dry and crisp, such as Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, or Pinot Blanc. I used a lovely Barossa Valley Semillon, because it was open. It was also very drinkable with the meal.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with fresh tarragon leaves, and serve. I like to serve it with rice, tagliatelle or creamy mashed potatoes. Some fresh green vegetables is always a healthy side as well. A crusty baguette is essential for mopping up the delicious sauce. 

This is comfort food in a bowl, and the tarragon brings a wonderfully aromatic freshness to the dish. 

Bon appetit,


Monday, March 6, 2023

Pickled Beetroot


The secret ingredient which sets this Beetroot Pickle recipe apart in flavor and intensity is the cinnamon stick. All the flavors will develop in the jars over the next couple of weeks resulting in a very aromatic and tasty beetroot pickle. I pickled 4 large beetroot and finished up with two large jars of Pickled Beetroot. The quantity of pickling liquid was the perfect amount to fill the jars and cover the beetroot.  The jars need to be wide mouthed to accommodate beetroot slices, if slices are what you prefer, over wedges. I promise you that after making Pickled Beetroot and tasting it, you will never want to eat commercially canned beetroot again. However, having said that, I always keep a couple of tins of beetroot in my pantry just in case, as an Aussie steak sandwich or hamburger just isn't the same without a layer of beetroot. 

The Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is an amazingly versatile vegetable. It can be boiled, steamed, baked, grated fresh, pickled and eaten hot, cold or raw. As a shortcut for cooking, you can buy beetroots at the supermarkets already cooked in vacuum sealed packets. And how about the rich, red startling colour, it brings a pop of colour to any plate. Beets look and taste wonderful in many types of salads, both cooked and raw. The early Greeks only ate the leaves, which is a reminder to us modern cooks that the whole vegetable is edible. The story goes that the Ancient Romans considered the beetroot to have Aphrodisiac qualities. 

It's a rewarding vegetable to grow in the home vegetable patch, as even if the beetroots don't grow that large, mine never do, the leaves can be picked frequently for salads while the beetroot is growing under the ground. Smaller beetroots are sweeter and less likely to be woody. A raw salad of beetroot is best made from the smaller ones, to savor the sweetness of them, and raw beetroots will naturally have more health benefits than cooked beetroots.
Beetroots are available all year round, but it's natural season is from Winter to late Spring. This is a reminder to me to think about planting some beetroots very soon. To buy it at its best, I like to buy it with the leaves still attached. The vitality of the leaves is the best indicator of the beetroot's freshness, and you are getting two vegetables for the price of one. The fresh leaves are edible, and even though the beetroot is loaded with essential nutrients, so are the leaves, even more so from being green and exposed to the sun. The fresher the leaves the better, and then if they are and if you have a lot of them, you can cook them as you would fresh silver beet. I love cooking silver beet in a hot pan with butter, freshly ground black pepper and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg.

I wrote a post about pickling beetroots 5 years ago. Here is an updated version of the recipe, with photos taken this week when I did some more pickling. 

Let's Pickle:
4 large beetroots, washed but not peeled.

Pickling Liquid:

1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cracked pepper or peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mixed spices (can include 1/2 tsp. celery seed, 1/2 tsp. mustard seed)
2 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick 
1/4 tsp salt

Preparing the beetroot for pickling:

Care needs to be taken when cleaning beetroot. Cut off the leaves a couple of centimetres above the root for later use, clean up any blemishes, and leave a small part of the stalk intact. Don't peel them or cut into them at this stage as the red juice will bleed into the water. A gentle wash will remove any residual dirt from the root, after all they are a root vegetable.

Cook in lightly salted water for 20 minutes. This depends on the size of the beetroot. Mine took close to an hour this time because they were large, which suits pickling. Don't be tempted to pierce the beetroot with a skewer to test if they are cooked as this can result in them bleeding as well. Instead, take a beetroot from the water and let it cool slightly in a colander, and then gently squeeze it. If it gives a little it is cooked. 

Cool the beetroot and then remove the skin using a knife, but some of the skin will just rub off in your hand. My preference is to slip off the skins by rubbing them gently. Use gloves if you don't want pink hands at the end of this. Lemon juice will remove any pink stains on the hands depending on how many you have handled. I recommend that you use gloves.

Slice the beetroot or cut into wedges or julienne strips. Slices should fit neatly into a jar and are a great addition to a homemade steak or mince burger. Beetroot wedges will look more impressive at a Dinner Party served in an attractive bowl.

Sterilise your bottles:
  1. This is most important. Everything you work with must be warm to hot.
  2. If the bottles have already been just washed in the dishwasher that should be enough, or for safety's sake place them in a preheated oven at 130 deg. Celsius for 20 minutes as well. I place a tea towel on a biscuit tray and lay the bottles and the lids on the tray, making sure they don't touch each other.
  3. If they haven't been recently washed or sterilised, wash them in hot soapy water, carefully removing any traces of former contents, rinse in clean water, and then sterilise them in the oven as mentioned in no. 2.
  4. Never place hot pickling mixture into cold bottles or the bottles may crack.

Preparing the Pickling Liquid:
  1. Place the pickling mix ingredients i.e. (everything except the beetroot) in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste it to ensure it is to your taste. Strain the liquid then to remove all the seeds. I do as I am careful not to eat any tiny seeds however the seeds will sink to the bottom of the pickling mixture. The pickling spices always look lovely in bottles of pickled vegetables.
  3. This will make 500 ml of pickling liquid.

Final steps:
  1. Pack the beetroot into your hot sterilised jars and top up with the vinegar mixture.
  2. If bubbles appear, just keep packing down the beetroot slices with a spoon until the bubbles disappear.
  3. Seal the bottles and keep on your kitchen bench for a couple of days or pack them away in a cool place.
  4. They will be at their best to eat after a couple of weeks after maturing in the jar, and up until three months. However, I couldn't wait and opened a jar after a week and the beetroot tasted delicious.
  5. After you open the jars for the first time, store them in the refrigerator after that.

It's unfortunate that we tend to take the humble beetroot somewhat for granted, but it's potential on our dinner table is enormous. I hope this has inspired you to buy some raw Winter beetroots and be creative with them. However, beetroot is available all year round so we aren't limited to pickling them just in Winter.


Warm wishes


Thursday, March 2, 2023

In My Kitchen, March 2023

February has always had a special zing to it for me because it's my birthday month. I mightn't feel a day over 25, but I hope that I am a lot wiser than I was back then. My friends really spoiled me this year with beautiful birthday cakes. Jennifer arrived for dinner one night just before my birthday when husband P was away, with a dozen beautiful Butterfly Cakes which she had made that day, which are nostalgically reminiscent to me of school fetes, church fetes, and splendid old fashioned afternoon teas. I was so appreciative as there is quite a lot of fiddly work involved with these. Each cake either had homemade strawberry jam or lemon curd dolloped into the middle under the cream. I froze a few of them, and they kept beautifully in the freezer. We've eaten them all now. Gosh they were so good.  I'll bake some one day and share the recipe with you. Thanks so much Jen, you are a very thoughtful friend.

Perfect with a cuppa

Chris, my dear friend of many years and who lives nearby, was hosting Mahjong on the Tuesday afternoon after my birthday and baked this spectacular Sponge cake, with a candle on top as well. Three of us share a birthday during the same week in February, so that's three Aquarians in the one group, that means a lot of laughter and chatter. 

The cake was absolutely divine. What is it about a sponge cake with lots of cream and fresh strawberries that sets it apart from most other cakes. If you look closely you can see a few Mahjong tiles to the right of the photo. It was so lovely to eat birthday cake for afternoon tea which someone else had made for me. I was very spoiled.

Before my birthday I made a Pear, Chocolate and Walnut cake for friends, which would also be perfect for dessert, as Mr. HRK keeps reminding me. Surprisingly though he said he would prefer sultanas instead of the Chocolate chips in it. He never ceases to amaze me. What would you prefer?

I had some homemade Scottish Shortbread leftover from the February Book club meeting which was here at home, so I added a piece to the slice of Pear cake on the plate. The rich red flowers are edible Dianthus from our garden. They've been growing for a couple of years now which has really surprised me.

Corella pears were perfect in the cake

I bought a new Zyliss brand Apple Corer and used it to core the pears for this cake. I originally bought it for apples and it is fantastic to use. So much stronger than any others I have ever had. I've broken a few apple corers over the years. It was a little bit more expensive, but it does the job, and it even has a lock on it to lock in place the moving parts. It removes and discards the cores beautifully. 

This cute tea towel says it all, except perhaps that I also need a great kitchen, and lovely family and friends.

Not surprisingly, we were all caked out for a week or so after my birthday, but I've managed to bounce back well, hee, hee. Continuing on with the sweet theme, I made French Style Pears as baked in Savoie.  The pears were absolutely delicious. Mr. HRK was over the moon about them and I have more pears in the crisper of the refrigerator so that they keep crisp enough for this dessert later in the week. The pears were baked in a luscious syrup, minus any alcohol. Honestly they didn't need it. Remnants of the Vanilla pod can be seen in the photo.

I've just pickled some beetroot. The flavour and colour of beetroot pickled at home is much more intense than what we can buy in a tin.

Four large beetroot made two large jars of pickled beetroot, one of beetroot wedges and the other sliced. The slices will be perfect for sandwiches and burgers.

A fun tea towel gift from special friends. They know me well.

I also feel quite blessed that one of my Cattleya Bowringiana orchids was out in bloom for my birthday. The two in the photo flowered slightly later and I can see them from my kitchen window which is lovely. I started off with one pot of these Bowringianas from my Mum in Rockhampton over 15 years ago and now I have 4, and I've given some plants away as well. They always herald the beginning of Autumn for me. 

I just love this tea towel which my daughter bought for me recently during a wonderful holiday we all had up at O'Reilly's Resort, in the Lamington National Park. The birdlife there was just phenomenal. I keep meaning to frame or hang this tea towel. The beautiful King Parrots were feeding out of our hands on the patio of our "Glamping" tent.

I baked some Cheesy Broccoli Fritters which were delicious on a meat free day.

A traybake of Moroccan Baked Chicken with Fennel and Chickpeas was healthy, tasty and very easy to put together.

Coriander Pesto and Pea and Sorghum Spaghetti was a delicious and very different midweek meal to make. My interest in using sorghum products for cooking was piqued during a recent road trip along the Burnett Highway, an inland rural highway in Queensland, where the broad acre agricultural fields were mostly rust, orange or red sorghum. Sorghum in general has a diversity of uses, from livestock cattle feed to human food, so I was interested to see this sorghum spaghetti in the fruit and vegetable shop, even though the country of origin isn't Australia, but Bolivia in South America. In Bolivia they grow organic white sorghum for flour.

Freshly washed coriander for the pasta.

Savoury Yeast flakes replaced cheese in the Sorghum Spaghetti recipe which was interesting. I've never used it before. Now I need to find a way to use the rest of it.

There are just so many ways to use Pomegranate syrup, and the sweet variety was delicious on cooked barley that we ate with my Moroccan Baked Chicken.

This is my March submission to the #IMK series hosted by the wonderful Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. Each month food bloggers from around the world gather to share what is new in their kitchen.  I don't buy a lot of new merchandise for my Kitchen, mainly food ingredients, but I love cooking and baking. 

I hope you have enjoyed a visit to my kitchen this month. Cheerio.

Warm wishes