Saturday, August 01, 2015


A sumptuous dessert! Don't forget to make it the day before you plan to eat it ...

500 g mascarpone
250 ml strong espresso
4 egg yolks
300 ml cream, whipped
1 vanilla bean, split
100 ml brandy
50 g sugar
250 g savoiardi [sponge finger] biscuits
cocoa powder and/or grated dark chocolate

Put the mascarpone in a bowl and scrape in vanilla seeds. Mix. Pour coffee and brandy into a shallow dish, add the vanilla bean and stir. Beat egg yolks and sugar together till thick, then whisk together with the mascarpone and cream. Dip half the biscuits in the coffee mixture and place in casserole dish. Spread half the cream mixture over. Repeat previous two layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before serving, dust with cocoa powder and/or grated chocolate.

This is a BIG mixture so, in a spirit of experimentation, I split it into two portions: I put two-thirds of the mixture into a casserole dish to take to our friends' place for dinner tomorrow night and the remaining third into a freezable container. Not sure how it'll go in the freezer but I'll report back later. Perhaps I just invented tiramisu ice cream ...?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brekkie @ U&Co Cafe

U&Co Cafe is a short bike ride from our house and is a cheery place for a weekend breakfast. We've been there several times now. The food is good and the service enthusiastic.

Today, he had:

French toast made with brioche, topped with candied walnuts,
caramelised banana and maple syrup, with a side of bacon

while she had:

Soft baked Spanish eggs, with capsicum and
chorizo, cream and sourdough toast

We're wondering whether French toast has gone out of fashion as it's becoming harder to find on brekkie menus. We will keep searching as it is Andrew's favourite Sunday morning treat ...

U&Co is at Unit 7, Gwydir Square, Kaleen and you can see its menu here.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Avocado, lime, ginger and pistachio ice cream

It's the middle of winter here in Canberra and we've been having some very chilly days. So, naturally, my thoughts have turned to ice cream! This week I tried adding a new ingredient (pistachios) to an old favourite. It worked well.

Don't be deterred by the idea of avocado ice cream. This is delicious.

1 avocado (or two if they're small)
juice and pulp of 2 fresh limes
125 g glacé ginger, chopped finely
0.5 cup caster sugar
0.5 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 cup cream

Purée avocado with lime juice and pulp. Fold in ginger, sugar and nuts. Very lightly whip cream. Fold all together. Put in freezer. Take out 15 minutes before serving.

Now, back to thoughts of ice cream ...

When I was growing up in New Zealand there weren't many (chain) fast food outlets in the provincial city where we lived. McDonald's and Pizza Hut only appeared when I was in my late teens (the mid 1980s), though Kentucky Fried Chicken had arrived earlier. Speaking of which, does anyone remember the TV advertisement for KFC featuring two obese kids? That song still invades my brain sometimes.

Anyway. We didn't have many American junk food outlets at that time – probably a good thing – but there were a couple of fabulous ice cream parlours in town. One was called Danish Delight and offered waffle cones with super-creamy ice cream topped with cream and nuts; the other, whose name I've forgotten, had some really interesting flavours. My favourite was called Goody Goody Gum Drops. It looks like it's still available! I guess the nearest thing we have to it in Canberra is the Cold Rock Ice Creamery. I've heard the Frujii Dessert Laboratory in Braddon is good too, though have to admit I haven't been there yet. Maybe when the weather warms up a little ...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some of the best cookbooks ...

... are the ones put together by amateurs! Recently a friend shared this article with me:

It describes how the sale of collaboratively constructed cookbooks used to be a big fundraiser for community and church groups. One of my favourite and most-used cookbooks, to this day, is a book like this! It was published by the 'New Zealand Every Boy's and Every Girl's Rallies', an organisation I know nothing about, so I'm mystified as to how it came to be in my possession. Anyway, it has been my constant companion for more than thirty years and many of the recipes on this blog have been adapted from recipes in the book. As well as numerous chapters on baking (squares and slices, balls, uncooked fudge, buttered items, large and fruit cakes, biscuits, etc. etc.)  it has sections on preserving, meats, vegetables, sandwich fillings ... there are even small sections on Polynesian and Jewish foods, beverages and bulk cooking (e.g. how to make apple crumble or scrambled eggs for a party of 25). Among the more mainstream recipes there are reminders of leaner times, such as a recipe for a pie filling made from apples, onions and bacon said to 'taste like duck', and one for a coleslaw that 'keeps up to 14 days in fridge'. There are also a handy sections suggesting how to use leftovers and providing household hints. It's probably one of the most-thumbed books in my house. A real treasure. As well as recipes for food, there's the odd item like this:

How to preserve a husband

Be careful in your selection. Do not choose too young. When once selected give your entire thoughts to preparation for domestic use. Some insist on keeping them in a pickle, others are constantly getting them in hot water. This may make them sour, hard, and sometimes bitter. Even poor varieties may be made sweet and tender and good by garnishing them with patience, well sweetened with love and seasoned with kisses. Wrap them in a mantle of charity. Keep warm with a steady fire of domestic devotion and serve with peaches and cream. Thus prepared they will keep for years.

(from page 21, Rally Cook Book (11th printing), 1982, New Zealand)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Comfort food @ Hudson's of Dickson

I feel like I've been in the wars lately. (That, or I'm being renovated.) There have been a lot of appointments with doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, and the like. Sometimes a big plate of comfort food can be a welcome distraction!

Andrew and I have frequented Hudson's of Dickson since the first week we moved to Canberra, more than 13 years ago. It's a cute little cafe where the staff are friendly and the food is delicious and consistent. My current obsession is their creamy mushrooms on toast:

They're good. Oh, soooooo good!

We can also recommend the pumpkin fritters (picture here) and the Hudson's breakfast. Yum.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Deconstructed samosas

Apparently deconstructed food is 'a thing' now. Dr Google tells me it involves taking a traditional dish and presenting it in its component parts, or all mixed up. Sounds like fun. I've dabbled in it a little already – you can read about my deconstructed pavlova here – and this week branched out into deconstructed samosas.

1 red onion, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder (I used Malaysian curry powder, use whatever you like)
500 grams minced beef
2 large carrots, diced
frozen peas
frozen puff pastry sheets

Following instructions on pastry packet, cut pastry sheet/s into smaller shapes and bake.

Cook the onion in a little olive oil. Add the curry powder and fry till fragrant. Add the mince and carrots, and simmer till meat is cooked through. Add peas and reheat. Add salt, pepper or other seasoning to taste.

Arrange pastry shapes on top of mince mixture on plates. Serve and enjoy.

Note: the quantities shown above will make enough for about four servings. The mince mixture freezes well. For a vego version you could use lentils instead of meat. I might try that next time ...

Home economics classes with Miss Palmer

Back in the 1970s and 1980s New Zealand schools taught gender-differentiated classes in subjects like home economics (i.e. cooking), clothing (i.e. sewing) and woodwork and metalwork. As a mere female I was only allowed to do the cooking and sewing classes, though the sexist restrictions must have loosened up soon after that as my sister, two years younger, did some woodwork and metalwork. For some reason my thoughts turned this week to Miss Palmer, who taught cooking and sewing at one of the intermediate schools I attended.

Miss Palmer was nicknamed 'Beaver' due to her prominent front teeth. (Kids can be cruel.) She was quite strict and one traumatic incident has stayed in my mind for almost forty years. We were asked to bring fresh fruit so we could learn to preserve it in jars. I took rhubarb from my parents' garden. The cooking class went OK, but I had too much rhubarb to fit in the jar so Miss Palmer told me to put the spare cooked fruit in a bowl and come back at lunchtime to eat it. I did so ... finding the room empty ... and then found myself in trouble. I was admonished for entering the room while she wasn't there, and accused of stealing a potato peeler that had gone missing. (Cue dramatic music: a potato peeler!) Of course I hadn't stolen it – someone had probably just chucked it in the rubbish by accident – but I was appalled at the accusation and terrified she'd call my parents. In the end it all blew over. Maybe one of the other teachers reminded her I was an excellent student and probably not given to nicking minor kitchen utensils. Maybe she even found the missing item. Who knows.

Anyway ...! In that class we were taught to make some pretty obscure dishes. I remember making a red cabbage salad, a corn chowder, and chapattis. At the time they seemed very weird. As an adult, though, I'm grateful to have had cooking lessons at all (some kids don't) and feel comfortable making dishes from many different cultures.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Firni – a spicy rice pudding

Someone gave me this recipe years ago, and as usual I've freelanced a bit, by reducing the quantity of sugar and making it a little more spicy.

1 litre milk
0.5 cup ground or flaked rice *
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon ground cardamom *
2 tablespoons rosewater *
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios *, toasted

Bring the milk to the boil, then take off heat and stir in the rice. Return to heat and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, cardamom and rosewater. Pour into dessert dishes and sprinkle a few pistachios on each. Serve chilled or warm. We're taking this dish to our friends' place tonight so I'll reheat it when we get there as it's pretty cold in Canberra right now!

* You can obtain these ingredients from Indian grocery shops such as the wonderful Bharat in Belconnen.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Lunch @ Pickled Sisters, Wahgunyah

The Pickled Sisters Cafe is next door to Cofield Wines, in Distillery Road, Wahgunyah, Victoria. We really like Cofield wines and have bought them on many visits to the region. The cafe has some delicious offerings too! They promote local and seasonal food and wine. We popped in for lunch last week.

She had:

Pickled Sisters Vineyard Platter: Rutherglen Muscat and
chicken liver pate, homemade chicken terrine and peach
chutney, Butt's smoked trout with herbed sour cream,
spiced eggplant, Gooramadda olives, Milawa cheese
and house baked bread

He had:

Caramelised confit pork belly with braised red cabbage,
orange and cardamom sauce, sage croquettes and crackle

Mmmmm! Wonderful food in a beautiful setting. They also have some spectacular desserts but we were too full to eat another morsel. The holiday is over. Now we diet ... or at least go back to home cooking ...

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Delightful Daylesford

We're still wandering around country Victoria. (We are creatures of habit and take annual road trips around Victoria!) This week we spent two nights in Daylesford, which is a town we'd briefly stopped in before but had never explored in detail. Despite being a bit of a tourist trap it was a lovely place to visit.

We stayed at a boutique hotel called The Manse, which (it seems) is a word for the accommodation provided to a Presbyterian minister. Unsurprisingly the house was next to a church. Anyway ... gorgeous! One of the cutest and quirkiest places we've stayed. The five or so guest rooms were themed. Ours was the zebra room, and sure enough it was full of African-animal-inspired objects:

The room also had a fabulous little kitchen in a cupboard:

The first night we were there we had dinner at the Taj Mahal Restaurant. Seriously yummy. The restaurant is in a house so we had the weird sensation we were eating in someone's lounge room. We ate dal makhani, vegetable korma, garlic naan and saffron rice, and washed it all down with some gulab jamun and pistachio ice cream. Definitely worth a visit.

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What else did we do there? Walked around the picturesque lake, climbed up Wombat Hill, enjoyed a delicious brunch at Frangos and Frangos, drank natural mineral water at Hepburn Springs, guzzled coffee and wandered aimlessly. Nice.

Brekkie @ Bay Leaf, Apollo Bay

My partner wanted me to call this post 'Breakfast roulette @ Bay Leaf ...' as we didn't quite end up eating what we expected! That said, it was still a lovely meal. When I arrived at the counter to order the barista had her hands full and took our order without writing it down. I wanted the mushrooms and he wanted the baked beans, but somehow his order morphed into corn fritters. Luckily that would have been his second choice.

He had:

Corn fritters, smoked salmon, avocado and a poached egg

while she had:

Field mushrooms with polenta, feta and tomato relish
Apollo Bay is a funny place. Like many tourist towns on the Victorian coast it is frantic in summer and almost abandoned in winter. That said, even in the winter there are plenty of brekkie options. We counted about six places we could have eaten. We enjoyed our meal at the Bay Leaf and our visit to the Great Ocean Road.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lunch @ Yarram Coffee Palace

We're currently tootling around country Victoria. Charming state, miserable weather! Luckily there are plenty of cosy coffee shops to explore. Yesterday we stopped at a small town called Yarram, in southeast Gippsland, for lunch. Something drew us into a corner cafe called Yarram Coffee Palace, and we weren't disappointed.

He had:

Nachos and a flat white

while she had:

A pasty with salad, and a (soy) flat white

This meal was delicious and satisfying. The cafe was also a nice warm place to escape from the biting wind for half an hour or so.

The Yarram Coffee Palace is licensed to serve alcohol and we suspect it gets more lively after dark!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pumpkin and pea curry

It has been nine weeks since I broke my arm, and almost three weeks since I stopped wearing an immobilising sling. Recovery is a slow process! For the first few weeks I could barely do anything. Andrew (my knight in shining armour) did all the housework, ferried me around, and even dressed me. Bit by bit, and with the help of physiotherapy and massage, my mobility and dexterity are coming back. It's a bit like being a toddler again. Little achievements every day. First I learnt to dress myself, then to do some kitchen and household tasks, then to tie my shoelaces. Today's triumph was chopping pumpkin.

I made a big pot of pumpkin and pea curry ... some to eat tonight and some to freeze for another day. No quantities, sorry, as I just made it up as I cooked ...

pumpkin, diced
onions, diced
olive oil
curry powder (Indian, Malaysian, or whatever you like)
cumin seeds (or ground cumin if you don't have seeds)
curry tree leaves
coconut milk
frozen peas (you could use fresh ones if available)

Sauté the onions in a little oil, then add curry powder, cumin and curry leaves, and fry a little more. Add the pumpkin and stir until well coated in the curry mixture. Add the coconut milk, bring to the boil, and simmer until pumpkin is tender. Add peas and boil for a few minutes more. Serve with basmati rice, naan or roti.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Orange and almond muffins

This week my friend Rachel is having a special birthday. In honour of that, I made some mini birthday cakes ...

3 oranges
170 g sugar
6 eggs
250 g ground almonds

Cover the (whole) oranges with water and boil for one hour. When cooked, cut up the oranges and remove any seeds and excess pith. Purée oranges. Beat the sugar and eggs together. Add the oranges and almonds to the egg mixture and fold together. Pour into muffin moulds and bake for about forty minutes in a 180 degree C oven.

Happy Birthday Rachel

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Brekkie @ Stand By Me

Do you ever wish your town had more spicy breakfast options? I do. Having visited various Asian countries I've developed a healthy craving for curry for brekkie. (Here are pictures of some of the breakfast delights we enjoyed in Kuala Lumpur a couple of years ago.) While Canberra has lots of fabulous Asian restaurants their proprietors are, it seems, sensible enough to stay tucked up in bed on cold winter mornings rather than opening their doors to serve breakfast to oddballs like me. Fair enough.

So, this morning's jaunt to Stand By Me in Lyons was a treat! Along with some pretty yummy sounding stuff on the usual breakfast menu they had a couple of fabulous items on the specials board:

He had:

French toast with poached pears, pear purée,  almond 
praline and almond cream, and a long black

He says ' It wouldn't have been out of place if served as a dessert!'

She had:

The breakfast thali of saag [spinach], dal, eggplant
kasundi, poached eggs and flatbread, and a flat white

She says 'YUM! Not overly hot, but spicy enough to satisfy my craving. Delicious.'

Stand By Me has been open less than a year and has been getting rave reviews in various social media. The staff are cheery and the décor is cute. We recommend arriving early; we got there soon after it opened at 8 am, and by the time we'd finished our meals (8.40 am-ish) crowds were pouring through the doors.

We'll be back ...

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ooh, ooh, umami

One of the psych courses I did at uni (I think it was called Biological Bases of Behaviour) discussed taste. We learnt that the sensation of taste could be categorised into four basic tastes, sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness, and at that time (in the 1990s) there was also discussion about whether there was a fifth category: umami. Umami is a word borrowed from Japanese, meaning 'pleasant savoury taste'. I was reminded about the concept of umami today when making a big pot of soup. Without the tomatoes and tomato paste, this soup is tasty but maybe a tad bland. With the addition of tomatoes the umami factor increases and it becomes positively delicious!

Umami? Yummy!

Big, satisfying soups are a winter staple in our house. I tend to make large quantities of soups, casseroles, and curries on weekends when I have plenty of time, and freeze meal-sized potions for quick lunches and dinners. Here's what went into today's batch of soup:

1 cup of soup mix (dried peas, barley and lentils)
3 carrots
2 parsnips
half a pumpkin
1 leek
3 tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
frozen peas

Firstly, cover the soup mix with water and bring to the boil. Then add all the other vegetables (chopped) and stir in the tomato paste. Boil all together until thick – maybe about an hour in an ordinary saucepan, or about 20 minutes if you have a pressure cooker. Cool for a few minutes, then ladle into freezable containers and refrigerate until cool enough to freeze. (The combination of ingredients shown above produced six servings. Our freezer is now full.)

Of course, the ingredients are very flexible. I based today's choices on whatever looked fresh and appealing at my local organic shop, but you can add or subtract things according to taste and availability. If you're feeling carnivorous, you can toss in (say) a smoked ham hock for an extra dose of umami.