in the garden - dungog

30 Jul 2012

I don’t get out of Sydney often enough. Getting the domestic chores done eats away at my weekends and suddenly it’s time to return to work. Last weekend I put all the chores to one side, got into my car and headed for Dungog to attend a 'Christmas in July' dinner.

Have you heard about ‘Christmas in July’? As Christmas in Australia falls in the middle of summer, roast turkey with the trimmings and plum pudding when it’s 35°C outside is a bit of a challenge. Someone came up with the brilliant concept of celebrating Christmas in July when it’s the middle of our winter. In the past I’ve celebrated Christmas in July in the Blue Mountains and this year it was Dungog's turn.

It was a rainy old weekend, perfect for a hearty roast dinner. I arrived at lunch time so I roamed around the garden for a while, camera in hand, before heading back into the kitchen to do some baking.

I think I like the garden best when it’s the middle of winter and you have to search to find the beauty. Here are a few things I found.

Iceberg roses, just a little past their prime.

Things made from wood and wire and of course, the girls.

I love Farmer Andrew's chickens so I always take the opportunity to visit the hen house when I'm in town. Sunday morning I helped feed the girls their breakfast and here they are waiting (im)patiently.The girls had the option of hot muesli or toast and the toast was a definite winner.

Come back Wednesday and I'll show you what I made with a little bit of help from the ladies.

See you then,



bamboo magazine

25 Jul 2012

A few months ago, I received an email from the editor of a Brazilian design magazine called Bamboo asking if they could use one of my Merci images. To date my Merci images have appeared in publications in Hong Kong, USA, Sweden and now Brazil.

My copy of the magazine arrived by post a few weeks ago looking a little the worse for wear. I asked the editor if she could send me pdf's of the article and magazine cover to share with you.

My image is on the far right of the page. Now my Portuguese is as fluent as my Swedish so I can't read a word of the article but the page looks very pretty. By the way, I love seeing my work in print, so one of my goals in 2013 is to have my photos published in an Australian food or design magazine or even better, in both.

I'm off to watch the final of Master Chef Australia so see you all again next week,


rhubarb ginger cake

23 Jul 2012

July's Delicious magazine featured apple desserts. I photocopied the recipe for the Apple, pecan and gingerbread loaf cake which I took home and placed on the fridge door. By the time I was ready to make it, I had a bunch of beautiful ruby red rhubarb in the fridge so I decided to recreate the loaf as a Rhubarb Ginger Cake.

The recipe in the magazine didn't have the weight of the apple so I guessed and used 150 grams of chopped rhubarb instead. I also increased the amount of ginger from 1 to 2 teaspoons, otherwise the recipe stayed the same.

I had everything ready.

I kept some of the fruit mixture aside and added a tablespoon of brown sugar so I could make a topping for the loaf. The cake took much longer to bake in my oven than the suggested 50 minutes, about 1½ hours in the end. 

I took the cake into work and it disappeared in a flash. The cake was pudding like in texture and I admit to being a little disappointed by that, however the texture was what my workmates particularly enjoyed. Who would have guessed? I wondered whether the rhubarb was the reason but when I checked some of the recipe comments, a few other people mentioned their cake was also more pudding than cake. It looks like my search for the perfect ginger cake will continue.

It was my day off today and despite my grand plans to do something nice for myself, I spent most of the day cooking and doing my tax return. Maybe I'll try again this coming weekend.

See you all again on Wednesday,



braised lamb shoulder with olives and lemon

18 Jul 2012

The part of Sydney in which I work has a large mostly elderly Greek population. I walk past the Greek Church on my way to work. I buy my Turkish and olive bread from the local Greek bakery and chat to my patients about Greek cooking, but I rarely cook or eat Greek food. That all changed with last year's Gourmet Traveller's Greek issue. I've made quite a few of the dishes featured in the magazine but this recipe for braised lamb shoulder is one I keep cooking again and again.

Every time I see boned lamb shoulder at my local market I pick some up so there's always lamb shoulder in the freezer. Most of the other ingredients I have on hand and my favourite Dodoni feta I pick up at the local fruit shop or deli.

I've adapted the recipe a little over the past few months. I brown the cubed lamb first in a casserole then deglaze the pan with white wine. That one step reduces the cooking time by an hour. I find using a whole lemon makes the dish too bitter so instead I use some peeled lemon rind and the juice of the lemon. Cooking the braised lamb in a casserole keeps the lamb moist during the long cooking process and there's only one pot to wash and what could be better than that!

Eventually the feta in the sauce completely disappears forming a delicious sauce. The recipe suggests serving the casserole with a yoghurt sauce and potatoes but I love it served with some orzo, olive bread and a simple salad of greens.

Here's the original recipe for you -
Kouklas’ Braised Lamb Shoulder with Olives and Lemons
Recipe by Cathy McCarthy, Gravelly Beach Tasmania from Gourmet Traveller Greek Issue October 2011
printable recipe 

Prep time 25 mins, cook 4 hrs, serves 6
1.5 kg piece of boneless lamb shoulder trimmed and cut into 4 cm pieces
250 gm cherry tomatoes, halved
200 gm pitted Kalamata olives
200 ml dry white wine
200 gm Greek feta, coarsely crumbled
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 lemons halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp dried Greek oregano
3 fresh bay leaves

Yoghurt sauce
200 gm thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, season to taste and spread in a large deep baking dish. Cover with baking paper then foil and roast until lamb is tender (3½ - 4 hours)

2. Meanwhile, for yoghurt sauce, combine the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.

Serve lamb hot with yoghurt sauce, green leaf salad and steamed baby potatoes seasoned to taste and scattered with flat leaf parsley.

Have a great weekend. Bye for now,


pecan baci

16 Jul 2012

As I couldn't bake last weekend, there was nothing tasty to eat in my biscuit tin. With the gas back on, albeit temporarily, the first thing I wanted to do this weekend was bake. I decided to make some hazelnut baci but when I looked through my cupboards on Saturday morning I couldn't find any hazelnut meal, so I wondered how these biscuits would taste if I made them with pecans?

I whizzed up the pecans and sugar in the food processor and voila, I had pecan meal. Of course in the process of tracking down the other ingredients needed, I found the hazelnut meal lurking in a container.

I found a small quantity of milk chocolate whilst searching for the hazelnut meal and decided to use that instead of dark chocolate.

I know pecan is not a traditional ingredient in Italian cooking but these little pecan and chocolate biscuits are delicious, specially served with a cup of tea.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to make them.

Pecan Baci printable recipe
Baci Ingredients
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter, softened
30g almond meal
30g chopped pecans
25g sugar
½ tsp cocoa
25g good-quality milk chocolate, chopped

30g milk chocolate, melted


Place the chopped pecans and sugar in a food processor and process until pecan meal is formed. Don't over process or you'll end up with pecan butter! Place remaining baci ingredients in the food processor and pulse until well blended.
Shape into a log, wrap tightly with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 160ºC/325ºF. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll teaspoons of the mix into small balls working quickly with lightly floured hands, and place on a buttered baking sheet. Place back in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and allow the baci to cool for a few minutes before placing on a rack. Once cooled, spoon a little melted chocolate between the flat sides of two baci and gently stick them together. Store in an airtight container and they will last a week. 
Makes 15 filled biscuits

I hope you enjoyed your weekends. See you all again on Wednesday,


curried pea and apple soup - pronto

11 Jul 2012

Farmer Andrew was in town last weekend, a rare event, so I invited him over for an old fashioned Sunday lunch. I served what's known in the family as 'green soup', aka curried pea and apple soup. The recipe comes from an elderly Australian Women's Weekly recipe book but the recipe can be found here on their website.

It's a very simple but really tasty soup that's quick to prepare and best of all, it's very low in fat.

In case you're wondering that's low fat yoghurt I've swirled through the soup, thinned down with a little milk and topped with some cress. Yes, I know, I've finally succumbed to the micro herb trend.

Here's the recipe for you -

30g (1 oz) butter

1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, chopped
2 cups (250g) frozen peas
½ lettuce, shredded
750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock
125ml (½ cup) milk

Heat butter in pan, add onion and curry powder. Cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add apples, peas, lettuce and stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes or until peas are tender. Puree in processor or blender in batches until smooth. Add milk, reheat before serving.

To freeze: Freeze in sealed container for up to 2 months.

To microwave: Place butter and onion in bowl, cook on HIGH 3 minutes, add curry powder, cook on HIGH 30 seconds. Add apples, peas, lettuce and stock, cook on HIGH 10 minutes, puree in blender or processor, add milk. Reheat before serving.

The plumber has sticky taped the leaking gas pipe so for the moment I have both hot water and a working oven. Unfortunately expensive plumbing works are now in the offing. I've just taken a lemon poppyseed cake out of the oven for tomorrow's farewell morning tea and the kitchen is in a mess. I am so pleased that the gas is back on though because I would have been embarrassed to bring something shop bought to my friend's morning tea.

See you all next week,


passionfruit melting moments

9 Jul 2012

One of my friends, Jenny, has a passion fruit vine and when we last caught up she gave me a bag full of passion fruit. The pulp freezes well so some of the pulp is in the freezer waiting for another day, the rest I've been using in my baking. A few weeks ago the bickie tin was empty so I made some passionfruit melting moments using this recipe.

I was trying to track down the history of melting moments and it's one of those recipes claimed by both Australia and our Kiwi cousins. Growing up the recipe was printed on the side of the box of a well known brand of cornflour (cornstarch). I probably haven't made a batch of these biscuits since I was at school.

I take almost all of my baking into work but sometimes I'm a little bit selfish and make things just for myself.

These little babies never made it past my front door even though it was my honest intention to take them into work. They were too good to share! 

Meanwhile a minor catastrophe struck my apartment building last Friday. The gas supply to the building was disconnected due to a leaking pipe so I wasn't able to do any baking during the weekend. We're still in the process of arranging repairs and I have to make something for a farewell morning tea on Thursday with no guarantee I'll have a working oven. Yikes!



osso buco

4 Jul 2012

I love osso buco but I don't make it frequently. Veal shin doesn't appear in the supermarket all that often but when it did last week I snapped up a few packets.

I always use Marcella's Hazan recipe for osso buco from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. This version must be from a US cookbook because it uses cup measures, whilst the recipe in my book uses grams and ounces. 

(from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
6 – 8 veal shanks
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup diced onion
2/3 cup diced carrot
2/3 cup diced celery
1 cup dry white wine
2 strips lemon zest
1 cup  chicken stock (I used beef stock, homemade)
1 + 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 – 4 parsley sprigs

1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced Italian parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Tie each shank tightly with a piece of twine to prevent them from falling apart during cooking.  Lightly season the shanks with salt and pepper, then flour both sides of the meat and brown them in a skillet with very hot olive oil. Set the meat aside, discard most of the oil, deglaze the pan with 1 cup of white wine, and set it aside.

Add butter to an oven-proof pan with a tight-fitting lid large enough to hold the meat in a single layer, and saute the onion, carrot, and celery mixture for about 6 minutes, until translucent.  Add the lemon peel and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the meat to the sauteed veggies,  pour the wine from deglazing the skillet over it and add the stock, the tomatoes, bay leaves, and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the contents to a simmer, cover and transfer the pan to the oven. Let it cook for 2 – 3 hours (depending on the thickness of your shanks),  until the meat is fork tender.  If the pot gets too dry, add a few tablespoons of water.

Add the gremolata on top of the meat and sauce a few minutes before serving, and don’t allow it to cook for a long time.   Cut the twine around the meat, and serve.

I served it for lunch with the classic accompaniment of risotto milanese and it was so yummy, I licked the plate clean.

I have another packet of veal shin in the freezer so I know what I'll be having for my dinner this coming weekend. 

Counting the days until the weekend. I'll see you all again next week,


chocolate glazed pecan pie

2 Jul 2012

Many moons ago I spent a year living and working in Edmonton, Canada. I worked at the Edmonton General Hospital and on my walk home, I used to pass a restaurant called Vi's. Occasionally a group from work used to meet there for cake and coffee and it was at Vi's I first laid eyes on a chocolate glazed pecan pie and a strawberry rhubarb pie.

Fruit pies are more my thing so I ordered the strawberry rhubarb pie. A few years later I was in Vancouver and was roaming through a bookstore when I saw a Canadian cookbook called 'Nuts about Chocolate'. I flicked through the pages and there inside was the chocolate glazed pecan pie of my memory. Now this was way before the internet or digital camera age so I scribbled the recipe into the back of my diary eventually transposing it into my Canadian note book.

This pie was inspired by the original recipe (it's the pecan fudge pie recipe without the chocolate in the filling) but I've adapted the recipe so often over the years it's now quite different from the original. I had some leftover chocolate pastry from the Popina's Book of Baking chocolate pear and hazelnut tart I made a few weeks back so I used it to make the crust. The filling is from a pecan pie recipe I've had for years and the glaze I've been making for so long now, I can't remember it's original source.

The chocolate glaze was a bit of a disaster. I have a cold at the moment and a fuzzy head, so I kept overheating the chocolate mixture causing it to seize. By the time I made it to the third version of the glaze I only had 100 grams of dark chocolate left and had completely run out of patience, so the glaze isn't quite as luxuriant as it should be.

I took the leftover pecan pie into work today. I can't taste a thing at the moment so my piece of pie remains untouched in the fridge, but my workmates assured me that the pecan pie tasted okay. Here's the recipe for you.

Chocolate Glazed Pecan Pie

printable recipe
Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry
225 grams plain flour
25 grams cocoa powder
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
85 grams caster sugar
1 egg

Place the flour, cocoa, butter and sugar in a mixer and blitz until you get crumbs. Add the egg and mix again. Take the dough out of the mixer and bring together into a ball.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface then roll with a rolling pin until 3-4mm thick. Line the tart tin with the chocolate shortcrust pastry and trim the excess dough neatly around the edges. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

3 eggs
½ cup sugar (I used a combination of light muscovado sugar and caster sugar)
2 tablespoons cornflour (optional)
3 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup light corn syrup
1½ cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped (reserve a few for decoration)

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F).Remove the pie shell from the fridge and place the pecans over the base. Lightly beat the eggs with the sugar until combined. Add the melted butter, vanilla, the corn syrup and cornflour (if using) and mix until the mixture is well combined.(I used a stick blender for this).

Pour the filling over the pecans. The pecans will rise to the top. Place the pie tin on a baking tray and place in the preheated oven. Bake the pie for 45-55 minutes or until the top is well browned and the filling is set.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When cool place the pie in the fridge while preparing the glaze.

155 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons butter
2½ tablespoons boiling water
2 teaspoons rum

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl over barely simmering water. Mix well until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the basin from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to spreading consistency before using to glaze the top of the pie. Decorate with the reserved pecans.
Store the pie in the fridge until ready to serve.

I hope you had lovely weekends. I'll see you all again on Wednesday,


Happy Canada Day

1 Jul 2012

Hi Every-one,

I know I don't normally post on a Sunday but today is Canada Day and I wanted to celebrate it in some way. I lived in Canada for a while many years ago and it still has a place in my heart. The past few years I've been overseas July 1 but this year as I'm home in Sydney, I decided to bake something a little bit Canadian.

I was thinking of making something flavoured with maple syrup but in the end I decided to make a chocolate glazed pecan pie, which I first tried when living in Edmonton. The full post is coming tomorrow but for now, I'll leave you with this photo.

I'll be back tomorrow with many more photos and the recipe.

Happy Canada Day,

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