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!!!