Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Last minute panic

Whenever the end of year comes around I always find myself saying the same old thing.

'Where did the year go?'

'How is it December already?'

This year,  more than most I am shocked at how we are already less than two weeks away from Christmas.

Ok - I might have just had a slight panic attack as I looked at my calendar to check exactly how far away we were!

Less than two weeks.


I have not bought ONE present.

I haven't even put up the tree.

Oh dear.......

Perhaps I need to get onto it all.

On the plus side.....

My kids have made THE most beautiful wreath ever!
And they have started making lists.......

Asking for gorgeous things like:
  • a magnifying glass
  • a packet of water bombs
  • new clothes
and then this.....
  • Roast Pork and crackling for dinner.
I love my kids!

Fancy asking Santa for that.


It just makes me smile.

I think I am going to re-invent the Christmas tree this year seeing as hubs has gone away O/S for work and won't be back for a week and I can't reach the Christmas tree in the shed on account of being super dooper short and not so good at climbing ladders.

I don't really like the idea of a broken back for Christmas.

I got some really lovely Washi tapes the other day.

Maybe I can do something with that?

What about you?

Are you super organised at this time of year or do you like to leave it to a last minute panic like me?

POSTSCRIPT: Here is what I did with that Japanese Washi tape....looks pretty good huh! The kids love it- they think it looks a little like Elmer the elephant from the kids books. I like that. It will do just fine until Hubs comes home and we get the other one out.....but I really do need to paint that woodwork .......

I had some people ask how to make pasta at home.
I think comparing homemade fresh pasta and the packet stuff is a bit like comparing instant coffee to real coffee.
The texture and taste of  fresh pasta is SUBLIME.
I am only putting the pasta dough recipe here. You can add whatever sauce you like!
Lately we have been making good ol' Aglio e Olio (go here for that recipe) or gorgeous Summery pesto variations - some that the kids have invented  (the picture below is of a gorgeous recipe we made from the fab Whole Larder Love's great online cooking series) & who can beat just fresh tomatoes with a little EVOO &  fresh basil in Summer. YUM.  Fresh ingredients at their best.
In most family households Spaghetti Bolognese would be the dish you could serve to any child with an 'it's my favourite' response.
Not so much in our house.
I have one child out of my five- my most adventurous eater in fact- who has never liked it. Until I started serving it with fresh homemade pasta. He loves it now.
We have been making fresh pasta more and more often over using the packet stuff.
At first it will take a while but as you practice I hope you too see the benefits of making a little extra effort.  It takes a little longer to make but it only takes a couple of minutes to cook!  And this is a FAB ting to do with you kids. I promise you will make just as much mess as them anyway so let them have a go!
At my place there is a battle to help make it. From the goopy dough mixing to the rolling.
Years ago Pasta machines were expensive and hard to find. Now they are relatively cheap & easy to find at any good cookware store- or online.
The key is to use LOADS of flour for dusting and to let the dough rest for an hour BEFORE you roll it through the machine. 
This allows the gluten in the flour to settle and relax.  It will make it MUCH easier.
It is also important to use good strong flour. Buy 00 flour.  It is now easy to get hold of- even some supermarkets carry it.
Following the rule of 100g pasta per person this recipe is for 4.
  • 400g 00 flour
  • 4 organic eggs
  • a little EVOO-extra virgin olive oil ( about a tablespoon)
You could add ingredients to a food processor to amalgamate if you like to help kick start everything or go the old fashioned method of:
Place flour on the bench or table in a large circle.
Make a well in the middle and crack the eggs into the centre.
Using one hand swirl your fingers around so you catch more and more flour until all the 
ingredients are well mixed.

Now knead the dough well with a pushing & rolling motion until the dough feels quite elastic.
This takes about 10 minutes.

Now roll into a large ball and wrap in glad wrap and place in fridge to rest for an hour.

Remove from fridge and place on a VERY well floured bench.

You should be able to feel immediately how much softer the dough is.  It should be quite pliable now.

I roll mine into a sausage shape and cut out the portions. As we are making enough for four, the easiest way to do this is to cut it in half and then half again to get equal amounts.

With your pasta machine secured to the table or bench you need to start at the biggest setting and let your pasta pass through.

Now fold it in half and pass it through the same setting.  (My 3yo is the Master of this job- noone else stands a chance of getting to roll the dough!)

Repeat this step about 4-5 times.

This helps strengthen the pasta.

Now you are ready to pass it through the machine at smaller settings until you get to desired thickness. 

On my machine it goes from 1-9 but I only ever roll it to 8. 
That makes it quite fine.  If it were finer than that it would be difficult to keep intact.

Don't be afraid to flour again and again. 
Flour the machine, flour the pasta, flour the bench, flour, flour, flour!

And especially as you have finished batches you need to flour them so they don't stick together as they are sitting on the bench.

The flour will come off in cooking but if you are not liberal it will get stuck in the machine and make it very difficult to manage.

Most machines will have the option to make spaghetti or tagliatelli- so you choose what shape you would like.

My kids like Papardelle which is the very thick long strands.  I love it too.
The pictures below are of Papardelle.  

To do that you just roll out pasta to desired thickness and then cut free hand with a knife.

Once you have rolled out all your pasta you need to get a LARGE pot onto the boil with a generous pinch of salt.

The size of the pot is important here as you want your pasta to be able to roll around in the pot freely.  
It also means the temperature can rise again quickly to a rolling boil.

Once the water is at a rolling boil add your pasta and cook for about two minutes- taste a little and check.
As I have said before I add my pasta to the pan that has the sauce so that the last bit of cooking time is in the sauce. It allows the sauce to incorporate into the pasta itself making for a much more delicious result!

If you have made more than you need- just sit the rolled out spaghetti over a (clean) broom handle and let it dry overnight.  Now you have your very own dried pasta!
Papardelle Bolognese
Tagliatelle with Pesto, Roast Cherry tomatoes & Fior de latte 
Todays tune is courtesy of my eldest boy....such great rolling out pasta music don't ya think! Pasta tastes much better with a bit o' Bossa!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Perfection is a dream

I think sometimes about what people imagine goes on at my place.

I wonder if they imagine a pristine & silent place.

Or if they know it is a place of happy noise and chaos.

I wonder if they imagine me serving a gourmet meal to a table of perfectly groomed and well behaved boys who eat everything I serve.

Or if they know that a lot of the time I will be serving weet-bix to a straggling crowd of begraggled and noisy boys.

I wonder if they imagine that I wash the sheets on Thursdays every week.

Or if they know that I am lucky to ever actually get to the sheets after the umpteen other loads that need attention first.

I wonder if they imagine that I have a calender where I have everything written down that I need to remember.

Or if they know that I forget lots of things as I am lucky to even get the time to write in my calendar let alone look at it.

I wonder if they imagine that my house is kept tidy and ordered and that when the kids ask for something I will know exactly where it is.

Or if they know that my house is a home and not a showpiece and so along with that comes mess and a disshevelled order and that I can dream up a million other things to do other than housework.  And that some days I truly dream of being one of those super neat freaks (and i am guessing that Hubs might just dream of me being one of those too)....and then I wake up from my daydream and remember I am me! And Hubs comes home to the same gal he fell in love with a hundred million years ago.

I wonder if they imagine that I am level headed ALL the time and speak softly and lovingly to my children all the time.

Or if they know that I lose it too.  When the constant demands on me become overwhelming and I am drowning in doing everything for everyone. ALL. THE. TIME.  And that shouty mumma gets let out.  And that very soon after regretty mumma makes an appearance , embarrassed at her childish behaviour.

I wonder if they imagine that I love what I do all the time.

Or if they know that like every single person on the planet I have days where I think a million other people would be better at my job than I am.

We all set an idea of PERFECTION.

What it looks like.

How we achieve it.

But on those days when I give myself a hard time about not doing a very good job, I try to remember what I tell my kids ALL the time.

Perfection is a non-reality.

It is something imagined.

Something dreamed up.

Something unachievable.

It is ok to  drop your bundle.

It is ok to not be doing a great job all the time.

It is ok to not cope with everything all the time.

It is ok.

It really is.

This is one of the QUICKEST and BESTEST meals to serve when you have dropped your bundle and serving weet-bix AGAIN seems a bit much! Or at any other time. It is incredibly nutritious and delicious.
My kids all LOVE it.
If your kids like Garlic Bread they will love this.  Us grown ups love it too.
It is a gorgeously simple Pasta dish that's origins I have read to be either from the Naples or the Abruzzo region of Italy- it is quite probable like all regional cuisine that there are varieties for each region.  
Variations include the addition of chilli, anchovy fillets or sometimes fennel seeds.
It is a classic example of simple is best!
The rule of thumb for pasta portions is 100g per person.  
Make the sauce about 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked and transfer the pasta into the cooking pan with a ladleful of the water and cook in the sauce for the last 2 minutes of the cooking time.  This is true of most pasta dishes. The pasta absorbs the sauce and it makes for a more delicious meal.
This recipe is for 4.

  •  5 tblspoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped extra fine.
  • S & P
  • parmesan or pecorino cheese to grate.
On a medium heat in a nonstick fry pan heat EVOO until warm.  Add garlic.
Fry gently for about a minute- just long enough to be fragrant. It is VERY important not to burn the garlic as it will be very bitter.
Add the parsley.
Add S & P.
Stir through.

Transfer pasta into the frypan and cook through for last 2 minutes of cooking time.

Serve with grated cheese.

And today's listening pleasure is a favourite of mine from way back. Just perfect to cook too, to dance in the kitchen to or to eat to. My family love him. Hubster and I watched an amazing doco on him probably over ten years ago now. It was love at first listen.  We passed on the doco to our extended family who all fell in love as we did..... An amazing man- Ladies and Gentleman please meet Mr.Paolo Conte. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Making choices

I had one of the most amazing weeks this week.

Filled with lovely catch ups with lovely people.

Some of whom I haven't seen in many many months.

Day after day I smiled, laughed, talked, hugged & cried.

It was so so magnificent.

Inevitably I am left, once the quiet sets in....reflecting & it feels like a little sadness has crept in.

I talked yesterday to a lovely friend about the idea of making choices.

Of being informed.

We were talking of this in relation to food; about the growing of produce, the ethics of it, the journey of the food from the paddock to the plate.  And how we are able to make choices about what we eat because we are informed.

But today I am left thinking about it in terms of my friendships.

I was thinking about how we need to think about our friendships in the same way.

Are the ingredients balanced?

Are they respectful & nurturing?

Are they wholesome?

Are they non-toxic?

Do the flavours complement one another?

Or is the friendship stale & a little manufactured?

Does it require a lot of work to get it to taste right?

Are the ingredients of the very best quality?

I might be taking the analogy a little far but what I am getting at is that as I get older I think more and more about living as the 'true' me.  Living with honesty is very very important to me.

I need to make choices about what is the best way for me to do that.

It doesn't make sense to make a huge amount of effort in sourcing food and produce of excellent quality & cooking gorgeous food to nurture my body if I am not making the same choices in regards to nurturing my soul.  It is vital to have balance.

So last week was a reminder to me of how my choices over recent times have been very clearly about that.

About making choices that are good for me.

I realised then that it was a quiet happiness that had crept in.....not sadness after all.

Give me one child who doesn't like these! 
One child in the classroom will inevitably have these in their lunchbox on any given day.
My kids have been nagging me to have them in theirs so we finally got around to making them.
They are really sooper doop easy- the kids did all the work.  If your kids like playing with playdough they will like making these!
When we were eating them my mr8 said to me " I like that we know exactly what is in the things we cook." It made me feel happy- happy that he cares about that. 
Like everything the quality of the ingredients you choose will determine the quality of the final result.
You  make a simple basic bread dough first and then portion it and add the toppings.  You could change the topping to other things if you wished. Just follow the bread dough part and make the rest up! 
If you want to add whole seeds, fruit or olives into the dough itself- add in the last minute of kneading.

This recipe made 8 large rolls.


  • 500g strong flour (if you can find bakers flour use that- we used our 00 flour, plain flour will work too)
  •  300g lukewarm water 
  • 1 sachet yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 20g EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 5 rashers of  free range bacon, trimmed & diced
  • 1 cup of good quality cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 organic egg, beaten
In a jug add lukewarm water, sugar & yeast and sit until the mix begins to bubble.

On your kitchen bench place the flour and salt in a mound, create a well in the middle and pour in yeasty water slowly as you mix the dough with your hands.  

(You could do this in a food processor if you want- but the kids LOVE to do this bit!)

Knead the dough till well amalgamated. Add a little more flour if it is to wet.

Rub a little EVOO in a stainless steel bowl and let the dough sit covered with cling film for about 25 minutes. This is called- the first prove.

While this is happening you can finely dice the bacon and grate the cheese And in a small container beat the egg.

Once the dough has risen, shape into individual  balls and sit on baking paper on the tray that will go into the ovenLet the kids make whatever shapes they like.  Who said rolls needed to be round?

Brush the tops with the beaten egg and add bacon and cheese as you like
Heat the oven to 180C.
Cover rolls with a teatowel and allow to sit for another 25 minutes or so.  This is the second prove.
Uncover and place in oven for 25 minutes or so.
Transfer to a wire rack for cooling.
Good luck saving some for the lunchboxes the following day!

Todays listening pleasure is the lovely Ane Brun- I have been listening to her Duets album LOADS over the last few weeks since she released her latest song-Do you remember. Do you do that? Revisit artists old songs when they release new ones.....maybe it's just me!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Conflict of Independence

When our children are born we look at them all defenceless and completely dependent.

We wash them, we feed them, we tend to their cries.

And then as they grow we begin to teach them.

Teach them to wash themselves.

Teach them to feed themselves.

Teach them how to dry their own tears, how to resolve their own conflicts.

We teach them to be resilient, how to manage when things don't go their way.

How to lose with grace & dignity.

How to consider other people & how our own behaviour affects others.

We teach them that we live in a big big world but that as humans we have a responsibility to each other.

We watch as our children make little mistakes as they navigate this growing independence.

We reflect on our own mistakes and our own unique journey into adulthood hoping that some of the mistakes that we made won't be made by our children, hoping that we have somehow given them the tools to make that path a little easier than it was for us.

In our family we are watching as our eldest begin the years into young adulthood.

As a parent I am watching and feel conflict as a parent that I have never felt before.

I always felt confident as a parent when they were little.  I knew that what I was doing was right.

That I was giving them the right tools to make their way through early childhood.

Now I am not so sure.

There are fights- not big ones but we really haven't had any before.

It doesn't feel familiar.

It makes me feel uneasy.

Makes me question whether I am doing the right thing.

That teenage confidence of 'knowing everything' and ever growing need for independence has crept in.

The secret world of youth.

It is so necessary and right for young adults to have a little bit of secrecy from their parents....but it feels uncomfortable for me and that tug of anxiety is always there.

I know we will make it through and that the groundwork we have paved is solid.

But it is hard.

Really truly hard- the hardest part by far.

What is it that is hard?

I have thought about that a lot.

It is the beginning of really & truly letting go.

Having to trust that I have given him everything he needs to make it through.  I have to let go of the safety line a little at a time and trust that he can indeed do it on his own.

The conflict of independence is knowing that independence is exactly what we want without really wanting to let them go from us at all.

After all wasn't it just yesterday that I held this babe, who is now well & truly taller than me, in the crook of my arm?

Whoever pressed the fast forward button would you mind pressing pause while I catch my breath just for a second.


Most people don't know how easy it is to make your own mustard.
I love really hot mustard.  The kind that blows your sinus to bits- like a good Wasabi hit.
I grow my own horseradish- well really it grows itself (blogged about it here).
I love it in mustard.  We got a beautiful batch of Horseradish mustard in our latest delivery from Bruny Cheese and it is all but gone.   I promised one of my kids- who LOVES it- that we would make our own It is HOT so use it sparingly!  Also it is worth noting that the flavour develops over a couple of days.
Here is the recipe- it will be enough to fill a small jar. 

  • 1/2 cup good quality mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of brown mustard seeds 
  • 60g fresh horseradish, cleaned, trimmed & peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 clove of garlic
Grind the peppercorns, salt, garlic & juniper berries in a mortar & pestle to a fine paste.

In a food processor blitz the horseradish with the vinegar until a fine paste.

In a small bowl add the horseradish vinegar to the mustard powder.

Add the ground ingredients, whole mustard seeds and the sugar.

Stir through and place into sterilised jar.


Let it sit for a couple of days before you use it to let it's full flavour develop- if you can resist!

This track is a live version of one of my favourite Calexico tunes. Enjoy.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The power of words

I love words.

I think I always have.

My mother has said I always have....I believe her.

Recently I spoke of how much I miss reading.

I think about reading a lot- I wish I could translate that thinking into actual reading.

While I have been stuck in my readers block I have been thinking about the power of words.

I have ALWAYS been confused & a little dismayed by this old rhyme:


Do you remember being recited this as a child?

I do.

It NEVER made sense to me.

I have always been in awe of words.

By the messages we can convey with them.

By how we can use them to express how we feel.

They have an incredible power..... more powerful than most things.

Words can last a lifetime- can change the direction of our lives.
Words can fill our soul with joy & warmth.
But INCREDIBLE hurt can be inflicted by words- hurt that stays buried & aching forever.
Broken bones mend.

I love to read how different people put words together.

I guess it is EXACTLY this that I miss about reading other peoples words.
I miss how when I read,  it opens a window into thoughts that perhaps I couldn't put into words or pictures that I couldn't portray.

This week I read some lines from Charles Dickens- still as powerful & magnificent as he ever was.

Such inspired language. So rich & beautiful.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)
It reminded me how & why I love words so very much.

I was left taking a deep long breath.  Flummoxed by the beauty and fullness of his words.

It left me still.

It had reminded of the power of words.

Zucchini's are just BEAUTIFUL at the moment.  I love them but I konw lots of people who are not fussed.
Try this EASY PEASY recipe and enjoy.  It is the same basis as Potato latkes- you can just substitute the zucchini for Potato.  Your kids could make this recipe quite easily.
They are great served on their own or as an accompaniment.
I served mine alongside a pan-fried Snapper fillet for a really quick dinner last night. So simple & delicious!

  • 2 zucchini, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a bunch of dill, chopped
  • S & P
  • 200g feta, crumbled.
  • olive oil for shallow frying
  • sour cream to serve- optional
Squeeze the grated zucchini to remove excess moisture.


Add eggs, dill, feta, flour, baking powder & salt & pepper.
Mix ingredients well.
 Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat.  
Add 2 teaspoons of Olive Oil.
Use a tablespoon to pick up a large spoonful of mixture and add to pan.
I fried 3 at a time.
Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes.
Remove and serve immediately topped with a little dill, some crumbled fetta & a dollop of sour cream.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Years go by.....

Another year has swept by.

Soon to celebrate my birthday I am left reflecting....

Flooded with thoughts.

Yesterday I sat in a moment.

Struck by the beauty.

The beauty of what I live with.

Five beautiful beings.

One beautiful husband.

I am so lucky.

So lucky to have what I do.

Laksa is one of those dishes that when you have for the first time it CHANGES your life. Opens your tastebuds to a whole new culinary adventure.
I LOVE it.  One of my fave comfort foods.
It takes me me back when Hubby & I were first going out and we would head to our fave little Asian restaurant- where we were such regulars that the owner would just nod his head knowing exactly what we had come for.
Here we are nearly 24 years later and I am still having Laksa with my best friend. We both LOVE it.  Most of the time I make it at home as it's super tricky to get out with our lot. 
It is another dish that changes according to what  I have available.  The basic mix is the same & then you add what you like.  Different every time.
It seems complicated when you see the list but it keeps in the fridge (or you could freeze single portions in zip-lock bags).
Last week someone opened my eyes to adding large chunks of Chargrilled Eggplant- oh me oh my- why have I never had that??!!! My fave veg and in laksa! I am so adding it next time!

(Makes about 600ml of Laksa paste.)

  • 4 tblspoon Belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)
  • 2 tablespoons Turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seeds (roasted & ground)
  • 125g fresh lemongrass (2 stems) finely sliced
  • 90g galangal or ginger
  • 50g red chillies (about 4)
  • 150g shallots (about 4)
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 100g Macadamia nuts
  • 2 cups of Canola oil
 Blend in a food processor till the ingredients are a fine paste. Add a little water if you need to.
Spoon into a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge.  Or put individual portions (you need about 8tspoons to make Laksa for 4) into the freezer in small ziplock bags.

  • 2 1/2 cups of Coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons Chiu Chow chilli oil
  • 2  1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 4 teaspoons of fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoons lime juice
  • 300g egg noodles
  • 150g rice vermicelli
  • 12 fried tofu puffs 
  • 150g char siu (recipe here or buy some at your local Chinese BBQ restaurant)
  • 150g chicken, cut into strips
  • a handful of fresh coriander
  • a handful of vietnamese mint
  • 2 small chillies sliced finely
  • 4 teaspoon fried shallots (available at Asian grocer)
  • 4 lime wedges
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves sliced super fine
  • 200g bean sprouts (washed well) 
N.B. You can add whatever meat, seafood or veg you like. Mix up your favourites.  If it is raw meat/seafood or veg that needs to be cooked add it just after you have fried off the paste and follow the recipe from there. 
Prepare noodles according to the instructions and keep warm while you prepare the soup.
In a large pan put 8 teaspoons of laksa paste and fry on a medium heat till fragrant ( I don't add any more oil as there is plenty in the paste already)- about 5 minutes.  Add the shredded kaffir lime & the chilli oil (optional) now.
Add chicken (and stir through- it doesn't need to cook fully as it will cook in the soup).
Add chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a simmer & cook for 10 minutes. 
Add tofu puffs and let warm through. 

In each bowl serve equal portions of noodles and then add a large handful of washed bean sprouts.
Ladle soup to cover and add meat and tofu puffs to each serve.
Sprinkle very generously with fresh herbs and fried shallots.
Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over.

Sooooo good! 

Todays song...a fave of both mine & hubby's:

Monday, 24 October 2011

Navigating change

Navigating change is so hard.

So much harder when you are delving into the unknown.

In our heads we roll around ideas of how things might go.

How we might deal with things as they present themselves.

It helps us prepare for things.

Helps us build resolve.

Build courage.

But life doesn't always follow a plan.

And sometimes what we have in mind isn't really how it turns out.

I have always been pretty good at being able to be spontaneous.

I've been able to deal with change really really well.

It used to be easy.

Now it's hard.

Last year a huge event blew everything I had always known out of the water.

It changed me.

It changed everything I knew.

Now I feel afraid.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of the unknown.

I have been learning to accept that this is ok.

A natural course for someone in my situation.

I have been trying very hard to go easy on myself.

To do what is good for me.

That isn't always easy for the people close to me who aren't used to this new me.

But it is hardest of all for me....I don't know this new me very well either.

I am learning to say no.

That has never been easy for me to do.

But navigating change is not easy.

I just need to trust myself and believe it is ok.

And that it will be ok.

It will.



I make this quite often for lunch.
I love the slippery silkenness of Tofu.
I know lots of people don't like it.  Only one of my kids really loves it.  He loves it when I make this, we devour it together!
It is SUPER quick and I always have tofu in the cupboard.   I eat it as is. 
SO yummy!  it is my sort of comfort food.

  • 1 pack of silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons Sesame oil
  • 1 red chilli (or a teaspoon of chilli oil)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • a 2cm chunk of ginger, sliced into extra fine strips
  • 1 stem of spring onion - sliced finely
  • some freshly chopped coriander
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Slice tofu into large chunks in a shallow bowl.  Add spring onion, chilli, coriander & soy sauce on top of tofu.

In a small pan heat sesame oil till hot and add garlic & ginger and immediately take off of heat and pour over the tofu.

It will sizzle and the perfume of the flavours will envelop you!

Eat immediately.

Today's track is another duet featuring Willy Mason. After listening to Lianne La Havas all week I re-visited Willy mason's music. I love it.  This time he is singing with the very lovely Isobel Campbell (she sang with Belle & Sebastian for a while but she is also a cellist.)
It is such a lovely track...hope you enjoy:

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Every week I spend hours & hours listening to and seeking out new music.

I love it.

It fills my soul.

Gives me solace when I am sad.

Raises my spirits.

It makes me smile.

It makes me cry.

It makes me laugh.

It helps me cook.

I get super excited when I discover something great.

It is something I love to share.

Like my cooking.

That is why I set out my posts here like that.

A recipe.

A song.

And I love that I know others that love to share too.

Very often what I post is not necessarily new discoveries but old favourites.

Or tracks the kids have been putting on. 

This week I am posting a new track.

A track that I CAN NOT stop listening to.

I love it when a song gets in your bloodstream.

This is one of those......

An artist's name I hadn't heard before (Lianne La Havas),  in a duet with one I do (Willie Mason).

I hope you like it as much as I do.

Her new EP was playing while I cooked this dinner..... and it's playing while I write today's post!

This recipe is surprisingly easy & super quick (the marinating time is the longest).  It uses a spice mix that I always have in my cupboard.  I make it myself.  It doesn't take very much time & you end up with quite a bit.  If you store it in your pantry in an airtight container you can use it for lots of things. I love to use it for Salt 'n' Pepper tofu- a lunch special I make for myself fairly regularly.  The fragrance of this spice mix is too divine for words!
If you don't want to use Quail- it would be equally delicious with chicken or duck!
The spice mix comes from Martin Boetz's cook book for his LONGRAIN restaurant.  It ALWAYS reminds me of some VERY VERY special friends in Sydney (you know who you are! x)...we may or may not have had WAY too many Caprioskas there together.....it was NECESSARY!

(makes 1 1/2 cups)
  •  50g szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tblspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 piece of cassia bark
  • 5 small red chillies
  • 100g sea salt. 
DRY Roast spices (this means DO NOT add ANY OIL) in heavy based pan till you are smelling the heady & delicious fragrance- about 2-3 minutes. Let cool and grind till fine. 
Store in an air tight container. (It will keep for several months)

500g Quail Breast
2 tablespoons Salt'n'Pepper spice mix
3 tablespoons dark soy
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon (3 cloves) garlic crushed

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.  
Work through well so that the Quail is well coated.
Set aside for at least 2 hours to marinate- or overnight if you have time.

Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high.
Place the breast skin side down and fry (I did not add any extra oil) for approx 3 minutes. Turn and fry for no more than  a minute.  
Remove and place n a plate.
Let sit for 5 minutes.
Then slice into large bite size slices (I sliced each Quail breast into 3)

1 lebanese cucumber- peeled into fine strips (use a veegatable peeler)
1 carrot- finely julienned
a handful of vietnamese mint
a handful of regular mint
a handful of coriander
2 cups of bean sprouts (make sure they are rinsed)

In a large bowl mix all of the salad ingredients well.
Sprinkle generously with Nuoc Cham (click here for recipe).  You can omit the chilli if you want to serve it to kids.
I did and added fresh chilli to ours.

Place well tossed salad on plate and place Quail on top.
I served it with Jasmine Rice as my kids are super hungry at the moment but it would be delicious just as a salad on it's own.

Here's the track that I talked of....'No room for Doubt' by Lianne La Havas with Willie Mason:

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Over the last little while I have been lamenting on how I seem to have lost my ability to read as I used to.

I love books- I have written about it before here and here. 

I look at cook books a lot.  But I have stopped reading other forms of literature.

And I am missing it.

I spend a lot of time as a stay at home mum looking on the internet, conversing with  my buddies on twitter & facebook.  I love that- it gives me a sense of community. It is great to chat with other people who share similarites with me- like cooking, raising kids, making stuff, thinking about stuff.....you know...the important stuff.

I love that i can come and go as I please.  Take a little bit here, give a little bit there.

Being a stay at home mum is a pretty challenging job.

My long time readers know how much I love it.

I love it A LOT!

Each and every day I am thankful that I can do it.

I don't enjoy my job everyday but I am thankful that I am doing what I do.

Conversing online makes it less of a solitary exercise.  I can feed my brain a little.

And I have met some truly lovely people- people that I would not have met otherwise.  These people have helped me through some particularly hard times over the last year.

But lately I have been thinking of how I can find a better balance.

How I can switch off from my electronic world and get my head back into books again.

I have an ever growing pile of books on my bedside table that has toppled and spills across the floor.

My tendency after a very tiring day doing my job is to head over to the internet to see what all my buddies are looking at,  reading short snippets here & there.  Stuff that is important & stuff that is well written.....but not BOOKS.

I have been reading cookbooks to cook with- of course.   I have several bookshelves filled with them.  Here's one of them.
One of the other reasons I love cookbooks is because they give me a peek into the world of the culture that the food has come from; stories of the people & histories of nations.

I don't want to feel like I have to read.

But I do want to read because I feel like reading....it is the desire that I crave.

In the back of my head I am thinking of a plan to help me.

Those people that know me know my resistance to making a plan.  I think I am a bit averse as I don't like to fail.


But maybe it's time I learnt to plan......... and learnt to accept failure.

I have started to make To Do lists- but my rule is they have to have things on them that are not housework jobs but things that are good for me....this one includes something about reading. I set the bar pretty low in the reading stakes.....but in my super busy days I have to keep it realistic too.

I always tell my kids failure is natural part of the learning curve....so how come I find it so hard to practice that in my world?

I have some ideas swimming around to help me out.

I'm thinking of getting some other people to join me.

I don't like doing stuff alone......it's fun to share!

Do you have the same trouble?

I would love to know how you overcame your reading block- if you did?

This recipe comes from Claudia Roden's book ARABESQUE- a taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon.
I love her recipes and this book was about her revisiting the countries she had first written about in the 1960's (opening up their cuisine to many of us for the first time) to see how their cuisine & culture had changed since that time.  I have a very well thumbed original copy of her Middle Eastern cookery in one of my cookbook shelves.  I have very quickly fallen in love with this book also.
I made this dish last week and had a request to blog the recipe.
I fell in love with the story & had to cook it.  I also have a deep love for Eggplant- and so do my kids so I was keen to try this.
The name of the dish means "Her Majesty's delight".  The story is that it was served to the wife of Napoleon III - Empress Eugenie in 1869 when she was entertained by Sultan Abdul AzizThe Empress was so taken with the pale,creamy aubergine sauce that she requested the recipe.  The Sultan's cook refused however, explaining that he could not pass on the recipe as "He only cooked with his eyes and nose."

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tblspoons Extra Virgin Olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 kg boned Organic lamb leg or shoulder, chopped into medium chunks
  • 500g tomatoes (tinned is fine- use chopped ones)
  • 1 tspn sugar
  • 1 clove garlic (not in Claudia's recipe but I CANNOT cook without it!)
  • S & P
  • 3 large eggplants (aubergine)
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tblspoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • good grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 50g Gruyere cheese (or other good quality cheese).
Fry the onion until soft in EVOO. Add garlic and fry for a minute or so.
Add the diced lamb and cook till lightly brown.
Add tomatoes, S & P and sugar.
Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on.
Check every now & then to make sure it does not dry out. Add water if it does.
Remove the lid for the last half hour and let sauce reduce.

For the puree- prick the eggplant with a pointed knife to prevent them bursting in the oven.
Place them on a large piece of foil on a baking tray and roast them in an oven preheated to 240C for about 45-55 minutes or until they feel very soft when you press them and the skins are wrinkled.
When cool enough to handle, peel and drop them into a strainer or colander with small holes to press out as much juice as possible.
Place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a fork. Set aside.

Make a bechamel sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan add the flour and stir over low heat for abut 2 minutes to cook flour.
Add milk & cook at a gentle heat while stirring to prevent lumps. Add salt and plenty of nutmeg. Cook for aobut 15 minutes or unitl the sauce has thickened.
Now add the eggplant and cheese. Stir through until cheese has melted.
Serve the meat stew in a shallow dish with the aubergine sauce all around.

I served it with a Basmati pilaf with brown lentils and a side of green beans with almonds.  When the sauce is all mixed through it is AMAZING!

and todays listening pleasure....

Monday, 10 October 2011

Silence in the house

School & kinder has gone back after a two week break.

My newly turned 3yo is in bed asleep.

There is a strange silence in the house.

One I haven't heard for two weeks......

I love having the chaotic sounds of the kids around.

I love not being woken by alarms.

I love looking over at the couch at the spray of children woven in amongst each other watching old fashioned cartoons to start the day.

I love taking our time over breakfast.

I love the weather of the September holidays.

Although this time the rain kept us inside for most of the first week.

But the sun came out & out came the Scrabble, Upwords & the Yahtzee...to play outside.

The recently turned 5yo is a self taught reader and was ever so happy to join in.

We all loved his starting words.

First this:

and then this (our favourite!):

The last Saturday before we went back to school we headed to our favourite beach.

A little hidden treasure of a place that we generally have to ourselves.


I love those days where you are sustained by nothing more than a packet of dry biscuits, a few sandy apples and the glorious sea air where time is forgotten.

It was the most magical day of our holidays.

All 5 were immediately involved in something.







It soothed me momentarily from the tug that I feel every holidays of trying to give all of my children- now at such varying levels of development- something to enjoy.

Here is a pictorial essay of some of the moments from that day that I will treasure.

Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mix.  The word apparently originates from the Arabic word for 'Pound"-as the mix of spices & nuts is pounded after being dry roasted.
I make my own mixes although it is relatively easy to come by in various shops now.
I love to make my own as I can depend on it's freshness and also mix up the flavours to my own taste.
The following recipe is the one for the latest batch I made. 
I used it alot over the holidays on my breakfast.  
It is also lovely sprinkled on Basmati rice to serve alongside tagines or other middle eastern foods. 
I was thinking the other day how lovely it would be on a pan-fried fillet of fish too, with a squeeze of lemon juice. YUM! I am going to do that this weekend I think!
Once you have made it store in an airtight container & it will keep for months.  I hope you will find yourself sprinkling it all over the place! It is sooooo delicious & super easy!

  • 1/2 cup of macadamia nuts (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup of pistachios
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano ( I used my own dried Oregano from the garden- or substitute with the Greek dried )
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a good grind of WHITE pepper
Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
Add nuts and roast till fragrant and just turning brown.
Remove and set aside.
Add the spices & sesame seeds to the same pan and roast till fragrant.

Add the nuts to a mortar and pestle and pound till coarse- alternatively use a food processor and pulse till the mix is coarse.  Be careful not to overprocess.
Place nuts, sesame seeds, S & P and spice mix in an airtight jar and sprinkle generously!

As we were on holidays I lazed over breakfasts and used my Dukkah quite a few times.  
One of my fave brekky's was : Dukkah sprinkled geneorously on top of soft poached Organic eggs with a sprinkle of freshly chopped dill & a squeeze of Lime juice on toasted sourdough with lashings of avocado.  Good enough for any time of the day!

On holidays I feel in love with this track. I played it many times......