Monday, 20 June 2011

Independence & maturing palates

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with the lovely Karen Martini of Mr. Wolf .

She was following up on a conversation we had ages ago about my two eldest boys (aged 12 &10) & their love for the spicy relish known as Kasundi.  She wanted my boys to cook her recipe and to see how they liked it.  She also wanted me to share our experience with you.

These 2 of my 5 little boys are the most adventurous eaters.  They will now try everything that is placed in front of them and are VERY keen and VERY capable cooks in their own right.  They also have a pretty good chili tolerance as they now eat with Hubby & I and we eat alot of food with chili.

I have written before about how this wasn't always so......hang in there if you have fussy eaters.  Really in the scheme of things it doesn't really matter but I do have empathy as believe me I have them too!  And I know the feeling all too well of wanting so desperately that your children will just eat what you cook without all the the palaver.

The irony is that my 10yo was my worst eater by FAR!!!

He survived for years on pretty much green apples & peanut butter sandwiches! YIKES.

It wasn't easy for me to witness and I certainly didn't want it to be that way.  I would perservere with serving my delicious meals hoping that he would one day eat them. But every time.....every time- he would end up with a bowl of Weet-Bix!

I'm not really sure when it all changed.....but it has.  I think that allowing them some independence in the kitchen has given them confidence to try new things and taken some of the mystery out of food.  But really I am not sure.

My 12yo has heleped organise a party at school tomorrow to celebrate a class achievement and is planning on making a Roast Pumpkin quiche and a Morello Cherry Clafoutis when he gets home from school today to take in to you do!

One thing I do know is that letting your kids be independent in the kitchen cannot hurt....can it?

My 10yo is amazing now.  Much more adventurous than most adults actually.  His latest request is lambs brains.  Now I don't know too many adults that would be willing to give that a go- do you?

Anyway.....sometime into his new adventurous eating ways he discovered Kasundi and pretty much ate entire jars with a spoon.  He LOVED it!

Before we knew it the jar was empty!

He kept asking if we could buy more.  I told him it was easy to make and he was welcome to have a go.

Enthusiastically he found a recipe and got started.  It was delicious.  Spicy, tasty and rich.

Delicious on ham sandwiches, next to fish, alongside a curry- or just straight from the jar with a spoon!

They made Karen's recipe yesterday.

Here's some pics of them while they cooked.  They make a fab kitchen team.  Lots of fun, laughs & of course they choose great music.  

We can learn a lot from how much fun kids have when they cook.
10yo carefully measuring spices
Peeling the garlic

The final result is DELICIOUS!!!!!

And guess what's in their sandwiches at school today?

So here's the recipe.........and the boys are very excited about giving a jar to Karen for her to try.


Karen's recipe makes about 600g or 6 cups. My lads halved the recipe.

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Nigella seeds
  • 500mls apple cider vinegar
  • 250gms fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 20 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 x 810gm tinned crushed tomatoes
  • 40mls olive oil
  • 12 large red chillies, split, deseeded and chopped
  • 5 firm mangoes or 1kg frozen mango flesh, cut into large chunks
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 large brown onions, finely diced
  • 60gms flaked salt
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 2tbsp turmeric
  • 6 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tblspoon of coriander seeds.

Soak Mustard seeds in hot vinegar and let sit for 30 minutes.
Place soaked mustard seeds in a blender, add the garlic & ginger and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat for 1 minute and then pull off the heat for a moment to add the cumin, turmeric, coriander seeds and nigella seeds.

Fry for 20 seconds, then add the mustard seed mix, chillies and onion and bring to simmer over a medium heat.
Add the tomato, mango, brown sugar and salt.

Reduce to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 1 hour, then pour into clean jars.
Here's the music that was playing. One of the kids faves:

Friday, 17 June 2011

The weekend is here....finally.

Some weeks feel really really you find that?

There are some weeks when Friday comes around so fast I wake up and it's midday before I even remember it's Friday.

Not this week.....

A large & very very sad milestone passed by in my family & friend's lives this week.

A lot of us felt very very heavy on the day and the days leading up to it.

The first anniversary of the death of my nephew.  He was only 6mths old.

His loss continues to be so hard- it always will.

He should be here.....and he isn't.

Nothing can change that.

Most anniversaries involve celebrating but how do you celebrate something so sad?

Celebrate is just the wrong word isn't it? 

Sadness makes your heart & soul hurt. 

On the day I spent some time with a lovely friend and distracted myself from the sadness.

We chatted about other stuff and laughed.

The sun was out....that helped too.

All day long I thought about him & how much I miss him.

And once again.......once again I was reminded of the loveliness of some people who sent thoughts, hugs & love.

To anyone who is dealing with thoughts are with you, it's a tough road.

Just when you think you are doing ok things fall apart a little, the wheels fall off.

That's the bit I find the hardest- it's the unexpected ways the grief gets me.

When that happens I remember some wise words from a lovely lovely friend.......go gently.

So this weekend which I am so glad is finally here.....I am going to do just that.

Go Gently.....

And of course for me that means a bit of slow cooking........and comfort food.

Some delicious pork (including some bacon bones) arrived for me today from mount Gnomon Farm in Tasmania.  We tried their products on our trip and LOVED them. Click here to visit their blog and read more about them and what they do. 

I love cooking this as it is super dooper easy. And is there any better comfort food than Baked beans??
Once you eat these you will never look back!
For my hubby it is the ULTIMATE  comfort food and he adds serious amounts of chilli & eats bowl after bowl.
Tonight I think I will eat it for dinner with a soft fried egg on top with some good crunchy sourdough toast. TOTAL COMFORT!
I have a friend who was vegetarian until she couldn't resist the temptation of the smell of Bacon anymore. It's soooo good isn't it?!!!

  • 2-3 bacon bones ( I used beautiful free range bacon bones- speck or a ham hock will also do)
  • 300g dried white beans (today I used black eyed beans) if using dry soak overnight in water to reduce the cooking time. Rinse.
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • garlic (I used 5 cloves because I LOVE garlic), chopped finely
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1/2 sweet potato
  • 1 leek sliced finely
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
  • water

Heat the oven to 130C.

In a heavy ovenproof casserole dish on a medium heat fry the onion, leek, garlic, carrot, celery and bay until the onion is translucent.

Add the thyme,  sweet potato and treacle and stir through.

Add the bacon bones and tomatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil on the stove before placing in the oven for 3-4 hours. (if using dried beans allow longer)

I check mine regularly to ensure it doesn't get to dry.  Add more water as needed- just to the top.

When the beans are nearly done I remove form the oven & check seasoning (I don't do this till the end as the bacon bones have a large amount of salt already).

Remove the lid and increase the oven temperature to 180C.

Place beans back in to brown and caramelize on top- for about 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls and eat as is....or with good bread.

And this is the tune of my week.......

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Pineapples & Stopping Hunger

A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to submit a recipe to a recipe book being compiled by Oxfam to increase awareness on global poverty.

We are ever so lucky with all the food choices we can make in our wealthy nation.  Not everybody is so blessed.

We can choose pretty much anything anytime we want.  And that is just in relation to food.

A lot of the time it is easier for us to put the plight of others behind us.  The images are disturbing & we get busy with other things and forget about others.

My kids donated their ENTIRE Christmas money a year ago to an Oxfam project to aid children in very difficult circumstances.  It's my turn to do something now....

Oxfam is actively working to provide sustainable solutions in communities by educating people how to grow a variety of foods and teaching effective ways to store & preserve them.

A case study focuses specifically on growing Pineapple in Mozambique as life changing, growing where nothing else can.

The recipe book contains Pineapple recipes by many food related people including Kylie Kwong (I'm amongst TOTALLY awesome company!)

Click here to go to the Oxfam website to see more, read more & hopefully you will consider a donation to this fabulous cause.

You will also see a banner in my sidebar showing my support.

Here is the recipe I submitted: 


This is a really simple & delicious dish that only takes about 30 minutes from the start to the table.
It is also great cooked on the BBQ.
Serves 4.

  • 4x200g pieces of salmon (or any fleshy fish)
  • sweet chili sauce
  • sesame oil
  • fresh ginger
  • 1 half pineapple, cored, trimmed & cut into bite size pieces
  • 200g mixed mesclun salad, rinsed
  • 1 cup of fresh mint, rinsed & roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh coriander, rinsed & roughly chopped
  • 2 large red chillies, sliced into fine strips (remove seeds if you do not like it too hot)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced diagonally
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tblspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Heat oven to 200C.

Place Salmon in an oven proof dish skin side down.
Pour sweet chilli over to coat.
Grate a small amount of ginger over the top.
Finally, splosh a little sesame oil over the top & place in oven for about 10-15 minutes.

While the salmon is cooking you can prepare the salad.

Mix together all chopped salad ingredients.
Mix together lime juic, fish sauce & sugar until sugar dissolves.
Pour over salad and mix through well.

Place salad over fish & serve.

Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice.

You can click here to download the pdf recipe book with my recipe & recipes from Neil Perry (Rockpool), Matt Kemp (Balzac) , Ben Shewry (Attica) & others.

You can read the press release here

Friday, 10 June 2011

Goldilocks & the 5 bears

Melbourne has had some of it's coldest weather in a LONG time this week.

Beautiful crisp blue skies and crisp frosty grass underfoot.

And BITINGLY cold.

Days like this beg comfort.

The comfort of getting dressed in front of the fire as a bear for instance........

I felt a bit like Goldilocks surrounded by 5 of the cuddliest bears of all time.

However in this re-invention of a fairytale Goldilocks was not eating porridge, she was eating Gnocchi.

I have a bit of a Gnocchi phobia.  It is something I have always failed at.  It either falls apart or is gluey & gluggy. 

It's one of those things I order at restaurants because I love it but don't cook at home...

A friend had told me of how she had made Ricotta gnocchi  recently & I thought it would make the perfect comfort food accompaniment to the Bourguignon braise I had been cooking all day.

I asked my big two lads if they wanted to have a go at cooking it.  They were very keen and worked together beautifully to create the most pillowy soft Gnocchi I have EVER eaten (at a restaurant or not!)

Here's the recipe for both.....


  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 5 cloves of garlic (use less if u don't love it as I do!)
  •  2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can peeled tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups of good red wine
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/2cup chopped Italian (broad leaf) parsley
  • 2 cups of sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 rashers free range bacon chopped 
  • 1kg beef shin, cut in to bite size pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tblspoons cognac (optional)
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • S&P

Dice carrot, onion & celery into uniform cubes (this forms what is called a Mirepoix- the basis for lots of really good slow cooked stews. It imparts a rich complex flavour). 

In a heavy pan add about a tablespoon EVOO on a medium heat.  Add the Mirepoix and cook till onions are translucent.
Turn up the heat a little and add the bacon, thyme & bay.

Now add the garlic and cook through for a minute or so.

While the mirepoix is cooking I brown the meat in a separate pan.  I use a good non stick pan to achieve the lovely caramel brown on the meat.

Once I have browned the meat I transfer the meat to mirepoix.

 Next, caramelise the mushrooms in the nonstick pan before adding also them to the main mix.

Then I deglaze the pan by adding the cognac and setting it alight.  You can omit this step and just add the red wine if you like.

Pour all this goodness into your mirepoix.

Now add the tomato paste and cook through for about 2-3 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes, add seasoning & stir through.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook in the oven at about 150C for 2-3 hours by which time the flavours are rich & the beef is unctuous.

Serve with Ricotta gnocchi or creamy mash & green beans.


Once you have made this you will never be afraid to make gnocchi again & it tastes oh sooooo good!
It was the perfect accompaniment to the Bourguignon sauce but would be equally good with a burnt butter & sage sauce, or a simple tomato sauce.

What you will need:
  • 500g ricotta (drained)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of grated Grana Padano cheese (Parmesan is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt

In a bowl gently mix all ingredients. Be gentle and don't overwork the mixture.

Turn out onto a well floured bench and gently roll mixture into a large ball.  Grab a small handful at a time and roll into a 2-3 cm diameter sausage.

Use a knife to cut into 2cm pieces.

You can make an indent with a fork if desired but they are fine as they are.  The mix is very soft and it is very easy to just flatten them if you use the fork.

My kids wanted to give it a go & they did a great job.

Place a large pan filled with salted water on to boil.

Once at a rolling boil add the gnocchi.

It is ready when it floats up to the surface- probably only about 2 minutes.

Here's the final plate with the Bourguignon suace....mmmmmm winter comfort on a plate.

This is my eldest 2 boys listening pleasure at the moment. This song is on high rotation.  I'm sharing with you a live version.  They share my passion for music and when they cook they get to choose the tunes. That's fair enough isn't it! Luckily they have great taste!

Friday, 3 June 2011

What colour is love?

For the past two weeks I have been re-organising & tidying my place.

It is behaviour most unusual for me.

I am known for my almost anaphylactic allergy to housework & all matters with regard to cleaning.

But sometimes.....just sometimes it all gets a wee bit much.

Yes we are a large family of seven but we live in a relatively small 3 bedroom bungalow.

And both Hubby & I are known for our fabulous hoarding skills.

Whenever we see something that we would really like but don't need or have the space for, there is a often a lilt of the head and a comment to the other that goes something like this..."It would be great for the beachhouse"

Only thing is......we don't have a beachhouse.

Would love to.

But don't.

We have a very very full shed instead.

Filled with all the stuff that would be great at the beachhouse.

During my tidying and re-arranging I came across some of my favourite childhood books in amongst my kids ones.

You'll see Pippi Longstocking a child I believed I was her.  I loved her rebelliousness, her courage, her independence & her self-belief. My mum even used to plait my hair with pipe cleaners so they would curl up like hers.  Aged 5,  I used to go to school like that; with my curly plaits & red patent clogs.... oblivious to the stares ( I went to a very conservative little Catholic primary school and my clogs were definitely not on the school uniform list).

My clog obsession had begun all those years ago.....

In amongst the others was this one:
published by Collins Clear type press 1967

It made me cry at the simple beauty and the power of memories.

It's smell transported me to my childhood.

The pages discloured and tactile.

The message within the deceptively simple layout was strong & complex.

It filled my soul.

Let me share with you some of the pages.... (click on the images to enlarge)

It left me wanting to answer its question..........

This makes a beautiful super tasty lunch or afternoon snack that my boys LOVE. They even took the leftovers for lunch at school the following day. And I LOVE being able to turn leftovers into something else delicious!

  • 3 cups plain (preferable good organic) flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 tblspns melted butter
  •  some leftover curry (I used my easy potato curry that I squish a little- click here to go to recipe- but you can use anything you like.) 
 Mix the flour, milk & butter together to form a dough and knead gently. 

It will be soft and light feeling.

Leave to rest for 20 minutes or so.

Cut into small fist sized balls.  

As you sandwich two pieces together it is ideal to roll an even number of balls.

Using a rolling pin roll the balls flat and to a roughly even size- you may need to use some extra flour.
Spoon on leftover curry of choice leaving an edge so you can join the second piece of dough.

Now place second piece on top and press edges to seal.
In a good non-stick frypan place some canola oil on a medium heat and pan fry for 2-3 minutes till brown.

Flip and do same to other side.

Serve immediately.

It is delicious with a minty yoghurt & a chunky salad of tomatoes, cucumber & loads of fresh coriander.

The remarkable Antony sings for us today: