Sunday, October 5, 2008

A 'Noughty' Birthday Cake!

Hah! Not that sort of naughty but a birthday with a significant nought on the end! It's OH's birthday on Tuesday and as it's a public holiday tomorrow, we're having a 'Nearly Birthday' day then!
The cake has been months in it's planning as I've been using Little One's playdough to practise making the rugby player. I then made the figure, based on OH when he played at school before I started work and it's been sitting quietly in the cupboard for about 5 weeks. Underneath the icing is a chocolate mud cake with a chocolate ganache sticking the icing to it. I think that the candles are actually AFL balls but no one will notice I'm sure.
Now I'm just waiting to cut the thing and eat a great big slice!
Happy Birthday, love!

Friday, September 19, 2008

OH is in charge!

Look at this marvellous pudding!
I graduated as a psychotherapist and counsellor in May and have since taken up a post as a family counsellor. On my return from work the other evening my wonderful OH had dinner under control.
First course was his speciality of prawns in garlic, white wine and sour cream with a stick of crusty French bread to mop up the juices. He just gently fries the garlic and then slooshes in an appropriate amount of white wine which he lets reduce before adding the prawns and then stirs in the sour cream when the prawns are cooked. Seasoned with salt and pepper they're brought to the table in the pan and then we just dig in! Delicious! (It was so delicious that I forgot to take the photo!)
Pudding is the creation you see above. He took a couple of single serve pavlova cases and spooned in an equal mixture of softly whipped cream and thick greek yoghurt which was topped off with fresh strawberries, blueberries and gold kiwi fruit. I added the sprinkle of cocoa! It was truly wonderful and it was so nice not to have to cook dinner too!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Wow! I've been given an award!

And here it is!
I've been awarded this by the lovely Maria over at Maria has a lovely blog full of brilliant recipes and is well worth a visit. I'm amazed and really flattered that she has awarded this to me, so a huge thanks Mara!
Awards bring responsibilities and I've printed the rules for this award below.
1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. Show these rules.
I would like to pass this award onto

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Peanut Butter Biscuits.

What a mad time we've had over on my favourite foodie forum 'Violet's Pantry'! I think I shoulder some of the responsibility as I posted a picture of the Snake Pit cake just after Kerryanne had posted a picture of her Peanut Butter Biscuits. They were truly beautiful and round but received no comments due to the aforementioned Snake Pit.
Anyway, one thing led to another and we ended up having a PBB challenge with photos being posted of our efforts. Kerryanne, with the help of her emu avatar, Ernie (Please don't ask!!) drew the winners name out of a hat and the winner as well as having the kudos of winning the challenge and eating some very scrummy biscuits also has a packet of Australian tea winging its way to them c/o yours truly.
The challenge has finished now but if you'd like to have a go at the recipe then please do as it really is a great and tasty treat!
Peanut Butter Cookies by Kerryanne
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter, brought to room temp.
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (280g) crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (50g) chopped raw unsalted peanuts, plus extra to decorate (I didn't decorate)
Sift flour,baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugars with an electric beater on medium until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and beat until just combined. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and gently mix on low speed until combined. Stir in peanuts. Scrape dough onto a board and divide in half (If it is very soft,chill briefly so it's easier to roll into logs) Lay a large sheet of foil on bench, then top with baking paper. Gently work one piece of dough with your hands to bring together, then roll into a 5cm thick log. Sit the log on one end of paper, then roll up to enclose. Enclose in foil and twist ends tightly in opposite directions to form a bon bon..Repeat with remaining dough. Chill for 2-3 hours until firm (or freeze for up to 5 weeks and defrost in fridge before slicing). Preheat oven to 150oC. Unwrap logs, then carefully slice into 6-7mm thick rounds.Place biscuits about 3cm apart on baking paper lined trays, (you will need three trays) Press extra nuts into each biscuit, bake 20-25 mins until crisp and golden brown, rotating trays halfway if cooking unevenly. Cool on trays for 3 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to five days, or freeze up to 3 weeks then defrost at room temperature.
Now you may notice a bit of a difference between Kerryanne's perfect biscuits and my own. I made the classic mistake of not reading the recipe correctly and made my biscuits very thick indeed. I couldn't believe that they needed to be 6-7cms thick so cut them 2-3cms instead. It would have been so much easier to have re-read the recipe!!! I also added chocolate chips rather than peanuts.
And the winner..........? I finish with a picture of Kelly-Jane's challenge winning peanut butter biscuits! Well done Kelly-Jane!

Back to Soup!

We had a couple of days of milder weather last week which made me feel that spring was on the way but then the wind changed direction and we're back to the cold. So, cue more soup!

I had a cauliflower in the fridge and some cheese which was said to me 'Cauliflower cheese soup'. This was garnished with some crispy bacon croutons and mopped up with some home made crusty bread. Inner central heating if ever there was any!

I made the soup as I went along so there's no ingredient list but it's as easy as anything to make and is open to all sorts of variations. let your imagination run riot!

Gently fry up a chopped onion and a celery stick in a little butter or oil. Try not to let it colour too much. Add a cauliflower broken up into florets (this depends on the size of your cauli or how much soup you want to make!) and cover with vegetable stock. Home made is great if you have any but a good quality stock cube will do the job too. Simmer until the veggies are soft then remove from the heat and add a good chunk of grated cheese. I used Australian Tasty cheddar but any blue cheese would work. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning to taste.

If you like a thicker soup then add a peeled and diced potato when you add the cauliflower or thicken with any spare mashed potato in your fridge!

Fry or grill a couple of bacon rashers and dice before sprinkling on top of the bowl of soup.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's in the bag!!!

I know I'm a bit old fashioned...well, perhaps a lot, but I admit to having a difficulty with the trend of making up party bags for the guests at the end of parties. After all, a slice of birthday cake wrapped up in a napkin was good enough for us. However, that's my stuff and not wanting to put Little One in a difficult position I think I've come up with an ideal solution.....the Thank You cupcake!

Firstly, I made a batch of 12 cupcakes using a standard victoria sponge mix, that is

4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
4 oz self raising flour (plus 1/2 tsp baking powder if you're doing the all in one)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Put everything in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Add a little milk to slacken the mix if it's too stiff.
Spoon into 12 large cake cases and bake for 10 -15 mins at 180 degrees. The cakes are done when they are spongy to the touch.
Leave them to cool and they should look like this.

I then sliced the tops off to give me a flat surface and smoothed buttercream icing to act as glue because the piece de resistance was then applied. I'd ordered a set of 12 edible cake decorations with a jolly photo of Little One and 'Thanks for coming' printed on. These were put on the cupcakes and the join was iced over with mauve butter icing rosettes.
I had a bit of an upset as I'd wanted to wrap them in cellophane but there would have been too much wrapping swamping the cakes so after a quick dash out to the $2 shop I put them in cellophane nests in little carrier bags spruced up with a bit of shiny ribbon.
Now the cake is done and the party bags ready...bring on the party!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Welcome to the snake pit!!

I've just finished washing up after a 5 hour marathon cake decorating session. Let me show you the Little One's birthday cake! She had the whole of Debbie Brown's 50 Easy Party Cakes to choose from and this was the one that got the vote.
The party is on Sunday at the local circus school. I'm trying hard not to imagine 12 young girls on stilts, unicycles or the trapeeze. Will the fruit juice and crisps (SO healthy!!) stay down? Will they want to eat the cake?
The baking isn't finished yet as there's still 30 chocolate cookies to make for the class on THE day (Monday) and tomorrow I'm making the 'party bags'. Well, they're not really party bags but my updated version of the slice of birthday cake wrapped in a napkin. I'll post a picture when they're done, not before as they might be rubbish!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Malibu Muffins!

I'm busy baking for a birthday at the moment but while I was getting the cakes done I had enough time and oven space to have a little experiment too and these were the result! I've named them Malibu muffins because the main ingredients are coconut and pineapple. Sadly I had no actual Malibu or that would have gone in too!
I had the idea for the combo from the contents of my fridge. I had a cup or so of light coconut cream and some pineapple that needed using up so I pulled out my old faithful muffin recipe that I add anything to and went for it. For 12 muffins you'll need:
1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup canola oil
Chocolate chips and chopped pineapple to taste
Put all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the liquids together in a jug and then lightly mix into the dry stuff. Add the chocolate chips and pineapple before putting into muffin cases.
Bake at 180 degrees for about 20mins.
I used my silicone moulds which were perhaps not the best thing but it hasn't stopped the muffins from disappearing!
My thanks to Linda from Thinking about Food for the beautiful cloths that she sent to me to enhance my photos. They work!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tomato soup with spaghetti and meatballs

We're still in the middle of winter here and a hearty soup is most welcome as a warming supper. I was really taken with this recipe that appeared in the latest copy of Delicious and had great fun trying it out. It helps that we have an award winning sausage maker in town and I grabbed 500g of his gold medal winning chicken and sweetcorn sausages to turn into the meatballs. The soup is wonderfully 'tomatoey' and plates were cleared very quickly!
1 tbs olive oil
1 thinly sliced onion
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1tbs tomato paste
2, 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1.25l chicken stock
500g thin chicken sausages
100g spaghetti, broken into 5cm lengths
Basil leaves,grated Parmesan and crusty bread to serve.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 mins, stirring until softened. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring for a further minute. Add the canned tomatoes and 625ml of the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 mins while you make the meatballs.
For the chicken meatballs, place the remaining 625ml chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Squeeze the sausage meat from the casings and form into about 30(3cm) meatballs. Add the meatballs to the stock and simmer for about 10 mins until cooked through. Remove the meatballs to a plate with a slotted spoon and return the stock to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, then drain, discarding the stock.
Use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth. Add the cooked spaghetti and meatballs to the soup and warm gently for 5 mins over a low heat.
Ladle the soup into warmed bows and garnish with basil leaves and Parmesan, serve with the bread.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Banana and chocolate chip muffins

Please find this month's offering for the Sweet and Simple Bakes challenge.

Sweet and Simple Bakes is a great blog run by Rosie and Maria. It's designed for people who just love baking no matter how competant they feel and there is a challenge issued each month for all who would like to join in!

This is the second month that I've joined in and I love it as I'm being introduced to new recipes rather than just re-creating my own usual fare.

Last month was the double choc chip cookies which have gone down a storm.(Little One has asked me to make a batch for her to take to school on her birthday!) This month it's been Banana and choc chip muffins.

These, like the muffins have disappeared rather quickly in school lunch boxes and as pre sports practice snacks. I'm not a fan of cooked banana so can't vouch for their tastiness but the empty cake tin can! They were really easy to make and I loved the very generous amount of chocolate chips that went in them.

If you would like the recipe or to join in the fun with August's challenge then please click on the Sweet and Simple Bakes logo on the right.

My thanks go to the lovely Sal from Vi's pantry and for the great mug and cute tray which showed off the muffin to it's absolute best!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Irish Stew for the All Blacks!

Yes, I know that sounds daft but that's how it is!

Last night we all went to watch the Wallabies play the All Blacks and being a Pommie family we wanted to keep things well balanced and show no favouritism. Having produced the Green and Gold cake for pudding, I wanted to do something black for the mains. Granny had posted her Irish Stew as part of the Pantry Challenge and I thought that if I used stout instead of stock then that would be my 'black' content. It was also pretty cold last night so I wanted something that would act as decent central heating too! I made Granny's Wholemeal Soda Bread to mop up the juices and have to say that it all disappeared rather quickly!!

Now, I'm going to post Granny's recipe and then put the ingredients that I used and see if you can spot the difference!

IRISH STEW (My version everyone has their own)

Approx 1lb/500gms lamb cut into cubes (or beef) 500g beef

6-8 potatoes cut up into pieces or less whatever your taste.

2 carrots roughly chopped

2 parsnips roughly chopped 2 sticks of celery, chopped

1 large leek roughly sliced no leeks!

2 onions chopped

oil for browning

Worcester sauce 4 tbsp maple syrup

chicken stock (2or 3 stock cubes) a small bottle of stout

Dried herbs as desired. a sprig or 2 of thyme and a bay leaf

Salt and pepper


Brown Lamb and add onions in a large pot Stir around and add leeks leave a few mins and add about 1/2 pint water and 1 stock cube herbs and Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer until lamb is tender. Add more water as desired. In another pot boil up potatoes carrot and parsnip in stock. Leave in stock until lamb is cooked. When lamb is tender add cooked potatoes etc, with stock Stir all around and keep heat low. The potatoes should be a bit mushy now Taste and add more stock as desired. Season to taste Turn heat off and leave to absorb flavour

Serve with Brown Soda Bread......What else?

I just layered everything in my slow cooker putting the vegetables in first and the meat in last and left it to cook for 4 or so hours. I thickened up the gravy with a little cornflour.

Soda Bread is something that I've always wanted to try but never done so last night was a first. This time I stuck to the recipe pretty much but used oatmeal and bran instead of the porridge oats and used milk with lemon juice as I'd no buttermilk. I did find that I needed to use less milk as a result. The bread was really lovely and just the thing to mop up the gravy!

Brown Soda/Wheaten bread
8 ozs/225gms Wholemeal Flour
4 ozs/100gms Plain Flour
4ozs/100gms Porridge Oats Or 2oz/50gms Oats and 2oz/50gms bran Approx.
One pint/575mls Butter Milk
1oz/25gms Butter
1 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
1 teasp sugar or honey
1 teasp. salt
Greased and floured round sandwich tin
Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4
In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through. Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny. Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin. (It is essential you use light hands) Cut a deep cross in the bread. Sprinkle with oats if desired Bake for approx 40 Minutes Tastes great straight from the oven so don't hold back
Notes: If you do not have or cannot get Buttermilk add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to ordinary milk and leave for ten minutes or so.
Cover with a tea towel when it comes out of the oven to stop the crust getting too hard
The whole meal was rather lovely as was the game! Well done the Wallabies!
Thanks Granny for some lovely recipes and also for my second award. I'm not sure what I did to deserve it but I'm glad I did and many thanks!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My First Award!

And here it is! It's been awarded by George from Culinary Travels From a Kitchen Goddess. Her blog is absolutely wonderful and is an inspiration with her lovely photos. I've been lucky enough to trial a couple of her recipes which are going into her book and not only am I looking forward to seeing them in print but also trying out many more new recipes!
Thank you George for all the hard work that you put into your blog and for the help and inspiration it gives me!

A Glut of Lemons!

One of the lovely things about living in Sydney is that the climate is just right for growing citrus fruits and I'm lucky enough to have a lemon tree. There is nothing nicer, I think, than being able to go out and pick a lemon from the tree to go in my G&T! Well, this year the tree went bananas and produced all these lemons (it is only a little tree!) so I've been busy using them.

As luck would have it the Pantry Challenge on Vi's Pantry has a Lemon Pound Cake. This was posted by Granny, a whizz in the kitchen if ever there was one! After reading the recipe and seeing the photo I made for the mixing bowl pretty quickly. The sponge is a lovely simple but tasty one and it rose beautifully. It also turned the most lovely golden brown and it almost seemed a shame to put the icing on it. However, this Lemon Pound Cake is on a mission to be tomorrows pudding before we all go out to watch The Wallabies (Australia) play the All Blacks (New Zealand) in what I hope will be a great rugby match. The lemon butter icing is the crucial 'gold' in my 'green and gold' decoration for the Aussies!

Lemon Pound Cake

250g/9oz unsalted butter, softened

250g/9oz caster sugar

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 tsp natural vanilla extract

4 free-range eggs

250g/9oz self-raising flour,

sifted lemon butter icing


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. Grease and line the base of a deep 20cm/8in square baking tin with baking paper.

3. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.

5. Fold in the sifted flour in two batches until well combined.

6. Spoon into the tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean (you can cover the cake loosely with foil if it is browning too quickly).

7. Cool for ten minutes before removing from the tin and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Ice with lemon butter icing.

Lemon Butter Icing

75G/3oz Unsalted butter

100G/4oz Icing Sugar

2 teasps finely grated lemon zest

2 teasps lemon juice

Beat the butter until soft and white. Add lemon zest and juice Gradually beat in sifted icing sugar Spread over the cake

If you follow all these instructions then this is what you get!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sydney Good Food and Drink Show

And here's the star! I was at Friday's show with a friend from school (How crazy can life be when you move to the other side of the world and still go out with girls from school?) We managed to get tickets to see Gordon Ramsay in action and even though we were pretty well at the back, thanks to the big screens, we still had a good view. The theatre seated 2500 and there wasn't a seat to spare! He, and his assistant made a 3 course dinner comprising of a chorizo and butter bean soup, pan fried lamb with a green bean salad and pain perdue. Nothing too complicated so he had plenty of time to chat!
As to the rest of the show, there were loads of stands with lots of goodies to sample and as we had our glass (free on entry) to hand there was plenty to drink too! I did manage to pace myself as I went to both the day session and the After Dark one so didn't leave until 9pm!
What I really enjoyed was talking to the local producers who were there and can thoroughly recommend this raspberry wine vinegar. I happily drank the sample that I was
given as it just tasted so wonderfully raspberryish! I can't wait to try it made into a vinaigrette with some rocket. I was also given an ideas sheet which included using it with olive oil to pan fry salmon steaks and to pour it over vanilla ice cream as a pudding! Yum! And the lovely thing is that it is produced locally (well certainly by Australian distances!) and that it is available at a deli in a nearby suburb.

No show is complete without a gadget and here's mine! It claims to peel and devein prawns in one go and certainly it seemed to work in the hands of the guy demonstrating it. You take off the head with the safe blade at the base and then push the pointy end down the back of the prawn. This separates the prawn from its shell and loosens the vein so all you need to do is pull your pan ready prawn away! With a bit more practise you can shell your prawn and still leave the head and tail on....and there is a bottle opener too!! I just had to add the quince paste bargain that I picked up too....$1 each!

Other treats included a bagful of these wonderful chilli products. The mild chilli dressing is my wonderful way of getting the Little One to eat salad and I was so happy to see that there was a stand full of the stuff. I've only ever seen it available at the market at The Rocks before. The sate sauce is great for adding to noodles for lunch boxes, the green chilli sauce is a great Thai curry standby and the chilli jam is good anytime!

And finally I just have to track these guys down again as their chocolates are absolutely wonderful. We got a show bag which had a box of their wonderful chocolates, a couple of bars of dark chocolate but the absolute best find was their orange sticks. I'd sort of expected a Matchmaker moment but these are lovely candied sticks of peel with the most lovely dark chocolate over them. What a way to eat fruit!!
And a quick thanks to the guys on Hilliers stand who put loads of chocolate mints into my bag too!!
All I can say is roll on next years show!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I've been tagged!!!

I've had my first tag and that's a bit exciting! George from has done the tagging and here's what it involves!
1Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2Share six random and/or weird things about yourself.
3Tag six random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Having worked out who to tag I then had the knotty problem of deciding which random things about me I wanted the world to know but here goes!

1 I love playing the drums. I came upon this skill when I was at school and decided that music would be a good thing to do especially as I wanted to make a career of teaching primary school children. To do music, I had to play an instrument so picked on the drums. My first performance as a percussionist was 8 weeks later in the local boy's school production of My Fair Lady.

2 I met my husband through the local youth orchestra, he played clarinet and I was on the timpani.

3 Whilst playing in a concert, the conductor realised that I would make a good stunt double for the principal player in a film that his friend was making. So somewhere there is a film that has me fighting an opera singer!

4 I love to scuba dive but I hate getting my face wet. My dive buddies need to know that I don't open my eyes until I am well below the water level.

5 I love messing about in the kitchen and find any sort of cooking a great way to de-stress. (I'm not sure if this is random enough for foodie blogs!)

6 I love watching rugby and still think that Rob Andrews' drop kick in the final seconds of the game against the Wallabies at Twickers was one of the greatest moments.(Sorry,Johnny!)

Anyway, after having revealed all that here are the people that I wish to tag!

Gayle at

Laura at

MrsW at

Amelita at

Tina at

Vonsashen at

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet and Simple Bakes Challenge

One of the great things about belonging to a world wide foodie forum is the abundance of great ideas to have a go at and the 24 hour support that you can draw on! Rosie and Maria have a great new blog called Sweet and Simple Bakes which issues a challenge each month to help and encourage newbie bakers and to add to the repetoire of the more experienced! I missed last months as I didn't have my act together quickly enough but this months looked too good to miss so here it is!

The Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies!

The recipe can be found at

The recipe was so easy to do and I actually made 21 so that the cook could have a little perk too! The cookies are really lovely and chocolatey with some crunch around the edge but a chewy centre and robust enough to stay whole in a school lunchbox! If you're new to baking do try them as I'm sure you'll not be disappointed!

Monday, June 2, 2008

George's Autumn Soup

One of the best things about joining a foodie forum and creating a blog is that I've had access to a cornucopia of new food ideas and so much enthusiasm about all things good to eat that I'm wishing for a few more nights in the week to cook all the dinners I would like to taste!
Yesterdays offering was thanks to George, a fellow foodie on Vi's Pantry and creator of the wattleseed cookies in an earlier post. She's writing her own cook book and I'm lucky enough to try out some of her recipes. I chose her Autumn Soup as it's autumn here (Well, we've just slipped into winter now!), it contains ras el hannout which I've had in the cupboard but not used yet, it needs pumpkin and I have my own mini store in the garage as my veggie shop was selling them 3 for $2 and the kids had declaired their love of spinich.(I must have missed that earlier!!)
Well, this soup has the lot and was so simple to make!
Autumn Soup
Serves 6 generously
1 pumpkin

2 sweet potato
1 white onion
1 red onion
250g red lentils
4 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ras el hannout
1 ltr water
100g spinach
250 ml sour cream
1 tsp harrisa paste

1. Preheat the oven to 180′c or the equivalent.
2. Cut the vegetables into 2cm dice and put in a roasting tray with the garlic, cumin and olive oil. Roast for 45 min or until soft and slightly caramelised.

3. Puree the vegetables and place into a large pan or casserole dish, add the water and bring to the boil.
4. Add the lentils, ras el hannout and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour until the lentils are soft.
5. While the soup is simmering make the spiced sour cream. Whisk the harrisa into 100 ml of the sour cream and reserve until ready.
6. When the soup is ready add the remaining 150ml sour cream and spinach, heat gently until warmed through.
7. Serve the soup with a spoon of spiced sour cream and soup almonds scattered over.

George also recommends serving this with a variety of flatbreads spread with the harissa paste but I just used crusty granary bread rolls.

The smell as the veggies were roasting was heavenly and I had to stop myself diving into the oven with my fork in hand. I needed to add more water when I put the lentils in but that was no hardship as it meant more soup for us, and we love our soup here. As I tasted the soup I was a bit worried that it might be a bit bland and had to stop myself from twidling with the seasoning and am I glad I did as the soup came alive with the spiced sour not miss that out!!!!

The aroma that wafts from the pan gives a hint of Eastern promise and of warmer weather to come. This is one we'll be repeating through the winter too!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Go the Tahs!!!

We were all cheering for the Waratahs last night as they played in the finals of the Super 14 rugby union. They were playing in Christchurch NZ against the Crusaders. Sadly they lost but we were not down, no! we had a Waratah tart to cheer us.

The waratah is the state flower for New South Wales and is absolutely lovely to look at. It's also the emblem for the state rugby union team.

The tart was based on a Bakewell tart recipe. I know that there may be looks of horror from those in the know about Bakewell Puddings but this was more in the style of a 'Mr Kipling'.

Waratah Tart.

6oz plain flour and a pinch of salt
11/2oz lard
11/2oz butter
cold water
Strawberry jam
4oz self raising flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder
4oz butter
2oz sugar
2oz ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon softened butter
1 tablespoon milk

Make the pastry by rubbing the lard and butter into the flour and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add about 6 teaspoons of water and draw the mix together to make a smooth dough. Roll out and line a flan dish, prick the bottom and then put in the fridge for about 30 mins to rest. Bake blind at 180 degreesC for 10 minutes.
Cover the pastry base with strawberry jam.
Make the sponge by putting all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth, adding a little milk if the mixture is too stiff. Pile into the pastry case and return to the oven for about 20 mins. It's done when a skewer comes out clean!
Leave to cool for about 15 mins and make the icing.
Put all the icing ingredients in a small heatproof bowl and blend together. Put the bowl into a basin of hot water and stir until the icing is smooth. Pour over the tart and decorate. I made a template of the Waratah's emblem and used coloured sugar.

Commiserations to the Waratahs but the Bledisloe Cup starts soon!

Now who to cheer for as Daniel Carter is back on form and is rather nice to look at!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Roast Chicken

Sometimes there's a moment when only a roast will do and what better than a roast chicken?
Free range chickens were on offer so I snapped one up and had it marinading in buttermilk, garlic, maple syrup, olive oil with some ground black peppercorns and rosemary a la Nigella, in no time at all. It was then into a hot oven, after a suitable time in the fridge, along with some par boiled potatoes for roasties and some cranberry and orange stuffing. The whole thing was simply served with steamed courgettes and carrots along with a gravy made with the pan juices.
The wine was an unoaked chardonnay from McLaren Vale, SA. Served well chilled it hit the mark with us!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Two Drumsticks

Tonight I'm giving my drumsticks an airing. I'm playing the timpani part in Elgar's 'Cello Concerto with my local orchestra. I've been playing since I was 14 (which is a very long time!) and since I started I've always played with a local orchestra or two. I've been a bit surprised at my reaction to tonight's programme as I've not usually enjoyed playing Elgar. Perhaps it's being away from the 'Homeland' that's done it but I've found that I've been really moved by the music. It could be that the soloist is an absolutely wonderful player but I feel it's a bit more than that. I keep seeing the Malvern Hills and Worcester Cathedral as I'm playing.

The orchestra is my local community orchestra which plays to a very high standard. The ticket sales are indicating a good sized audience so the call went out for cakes and biscuits for the interval. What a time to bake George's Wattleseed Cookies! I sent a packet of ground and roasted wattleseed to George in a swap organised through the now defunct forum. George is very creative with ingredients from all over the world and after a bit of thought came up with this recipe. I'm not only feeding some of tonight's audience with this recipe but also trialling it for George.

Wattleseed Cookies

6oz 00 flour
4oz soft butter
2oz castor sugar
1 teaspoon ground wattleseed
1 tablespoon Nutella

Beat the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy then beat in the wattleseed and Nutella. Then beat in the flour to make a stiff dough. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Slice the dough into 2cm rounds and place on a baking tray. Cook for 7-10 minutes at 180 degreesC until golden and firm. transfer onto a cooling tray.

The concert went well and the soloist played beautifully. I was particularly proud that the plate of cookies was demolished with relish. In fact they disappeared so fast that no one in my family managed to get one. Luckily I've made some for home and they've been demolished with great gusto. A great triumph George!

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Favourite Room!

Here it is! My most favourite room in the house. Reds to the left and whites to the right.

I don't profess to know much about wines but do know that I enjoy a good one! We're lucky with having the Hunter Valley only 90 minutes drive away and looking at the gaps I feel a trip there may be needed soon.

The Hunter Valley is best known for it's Semillon and Shiraz wines. The Semillon is a lovely dry crisp white wine with a citrussy hint! If you can get a bottle of Mount Pleasant's Elizabeth you'll see what I mean, you can taste the lemons! And the Shiraz goes well with beef or cheese. Well, that's what I think.

I was drinking a Hunter Valley shiraz only last night. It was from a winery that I love going to called Lucy's Run.

Lucy is the owners dog and features on the wine labels, Sophie is Lucy's daughter and has the dessert wine named after her. John and Judy own the winery and run it with the help of the dogs. John used to be an airline pilot and he and Judy bought the place before he stopped flying. Judy and the dogs manned the place until John gave up the day job and now they produce some great drinking wines and olive oil. They don't have a cellar door which means that you can't just drop in unannounced but if you give them a call (02 4938 3594) they'd love to see you!

Quinoa porridge

I've been longing to find out what this is like after seeing Gillian Mckeith wax lyrical over it and when I received the June issue of Delicious with a recipe for it I knew that I just had to get some and try it!

I'm new to quinoa and was interested in its protein content.

A recently rediscovered ancient "grain" native to South America, quinoa was once called "the gold of the Incas," who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. Because quinoa is a very good source of manganese as well as a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorous, this "grain" may be especially valuable for persons with migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis. From

As it is the rugby season here and Teenboy is well into his training I feel the need to start serving this..

Coconut quinoa porridge with banana and palm sugar.

2 cups(500ml) coconut milk
1 cup (200g) quinoa
250g dark palm sugar cut into small chunks (or use 11/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar)
2 bananas, sliced
1/2 cup(35g) shredded coconut, lightly toasted

Combine the coconut milk with 1 cup (250ml) water in a jug, then set aside.
Combine the quinoa and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. add half the coconut mixture, or just enough to caver the grains. Bring to the boil, stirring, over a medium-low heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20-25 mins until the grains are tender and the mixture is a porridge consistency, topping up with some of the remaining liquid if it is becoming too thick.

Meanwhile place the palm or brown sugar and 1 cup (250ml) of water in another saucepan over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for about 30 mins until it is a thick syrupy consistency and the mixture is reduced by half.

To serve, pour about 1 tablespoon of the syrup in the bottom of each bowl or serving glass, spoon over the porridge and then add a little more syrup. Top with sliced banana and sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve warm.

Store any remaining palm sugar syrup in the fridge for up to a week.

Serves 4.

I enjoyed eating it as it has a slightly crunchy texture but I didn't make the syrup. Instead I drizzled over some golden syrup but recon that maple syrup would be good too! I won't be making it as a weekday breakfast as I'd rather have a bit of a lay in rather than be stirring porridge but it's good for the weekends!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dinner is served!

I haven't done a stir-fry in ages and with some rump steak sitting in the fridge Beef in Oyster Sauce was calling to me. We started the meal with dim sum which was simplicity itself as all I did was choose some from the local Chinese supermarket and steam them!

The recipe I used was from The Book of Wok and Stir-Fry Dishes, a book which my husband bought with him when he moved here.

Beef in Oyster Sauce.

3 teaspoons cornflour

11/2 tablespoons soy sauce

11/2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

450g rump steak, cut crosswise into thin strips

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, sliced

1 red pepper (capsicum) sliced

115g mushrooms, sliced

4 spring onions, sliced

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

115ml chicken stock or water

In a bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the cornflour with the soy sauce and the rice wine or dry sherry. Add beef strips and toss to coat well. Allow to stand for 25 mins. heat the wok until very hot. Add oil and swirl to coat wok. add beef strips and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until browned. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add ginger and garlic to remaining oil in wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the celery, pepper(capsicum), mushrooms and spring onion and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.

Stir in oyster sauce and combine remaining cornflour with the stock or water, then stir into the wok and bring to the boil. Add reserved beef strips and toss beef and vegetables for 1 minute until sauce thickens and the beef is heated through. Serve with rice and wild rice.

Serves 4

I left out the mushrooms as the Little One doesn't like them. I served it with boiled rice flavoured with 5 spice powder and vegetable stock and steamed bok choy and was gratified to have all plates returned empty!

The wine was a 2005 Cabernet Merlot from Gramps in the Barossa which went down very well and a little too quickly!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jolly Juice!

The drive through bottle shop has to be one of the best Aussie inventions. I was bowled over the first time my husband took me to one and now feel the need to take all my visitors through one just for the experience. It's wonderful to drive up, pop the boot open, ask the guy to put a couple of slabs of cold VB in and pay, all without stirring from the driver's seat. As a UK friend would say "Quality!"

Anyway, on Saturday my husband went to the bottle shop and came back with some beers and wine. Now, I'm a fizzy girl myself and so he came in with a couple of bottles to try. Nothing too posh but what we call 'jolly juice'. This is one I haven't tried before. I'm not sure of the price but am sure it comes in at under $10. It's a bit sweeter than my normal pink fizzy but was well chilled and went down very well. I did think of my friend Sally who's favourite colour is pink and reconed that she would have approved. I also made 2 toasts as we drank it, one to the afore mentioned friend Sally and one to Brenda both of whom are my blog gurus. Thanks for your help in getting me started, it's greatly appreciated! When I'm a little more adept you'll be able to click on a link and go straight to their blogs!


Coffee Break

It's a beautiful autumn day here in Sydney. The washing's hanging on the line, the pile of ironing's done and I've got my coffee and a white choc chip and blueberry muffin by my side. What more can a girl want?

The muffins are really simple to make, freeze wonderfully and you can ring the changes as to what you put in them.

Everyone here is really excited about the blog and have ohhhed and ahhhed about the number of hits, the places that readers come from and the comments left. Thanks everybody, the kids world geography is improving rapidly!

But to the muffins!


1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

2 cups plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2-5 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup semi-skimmed milk

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup white choc chips

1 cup frozed blueberries

Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the choc chips and blueberries.

Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a jug then pour into the dry ingredients. Mix together lightly and spoon into 12 large muffin cases. Bake for around 20 minutes at 190 degrees C.

Sit back and see how long they last!

The birthday cake is nearly all gone but I'll finish with a picture of it in all it's glory!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Happy Birthday!

This seemed to be the best day to start my blog as I have a birthday cake to hand! Sunday is Teenboy's 15th birthday and my blogs 1st day. It means that I'll always remember the date.

The cake is Nigella's Malteser Cake from Feast, with the added candles of course. Teenboy chose it himself although he was tempted by a porcupine cake in the Chocolate and Coffee Bible...not!

The recipe was easy to follow and although it called for Horlicks, not easily obtained around here I substituted it with the good Aussie favourite, Milo. It still has a lovely malty taste. I also used just one pan, a 23cm silicone pan so I just covered the cake top and sides.

Chocolate Malteser Cake from Feast by Nigella Lawson

For the cake

150g soft light brown sugar

100g caster sugar

3 eggs

175ml milk

15g butter

2 tablespoons Horlicks

175g plain flour

25g cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing and decoration

250g icing sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa

25g Horlicks

125g soft unsalted butter

2 tablespoons boiling water

2 x 37g packets Maltesers

Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature (though it's not so crucial here, since you're heating the milk and butter and whisking the eggs.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C. Butter and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.
Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing. I use a processor just because it makes life easier: you don't need to sieve the icing sugar. So: put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks in the processor and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down, and start again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running until you have a smooth buttercream.

Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge, about 1cm in, with a ring of Maltesers or use them to decorate the top in which-ever way pleases you.
Makes 8-10 slices.

So Happy Birthday Teenboy and Happy Birthday blog!!!