Thursday, 27 March 2014

What we teach children when we teach them how to cook

This week I have been super busy getting the wheels moving on something that has been spinning in my head for a long time.

For years I have watched little Veggie patches at our kids school that are currently the domain of the 5yo Prep students.

Every time I pass them a little cog in my brain spins.

What if we expanded these patches and began using the produce to cook with? What if........

You see for me this little spot in our school is the basis for something that, to me, is key to a much larger thing.

For children to see where food comes from and the importance of it in our day to day life is an understated yet necessary skill in life.
It helps piece together so many things.

Food is what sustains us all - on a very basic level it is the fundamental key to life.

Yet involved in that are so many other things.

The understanding of how food comes to be on our plates is an understanding of much broader and bigger themes. Ones that I believe give children a better understanding & appreciation of what is important in our greater world.

Themes that naturally occur when we discuss food and growing produce with children are: the environment and it's health, a basic understanding of where food comes from, Maths via measurement & quantity, English via reading and writing, Science via the actual cooking processes, the economy and how this affects food production, the different flavours of different cultures, how food choices are different via differing beliefs, they will learn about the many different factors that affect whether something is available or not, the arguments for ethical choices in our food consumption, we teach them about our greater responsibility to our world and the people in it, we teach about community, we teach about nurturing & love.

I for one feel strongly about the health of our planet.  I also feel very strongly about the health of our children via the foods they eat.

Starting a Kitchen Garden programme at my children's Primary school is my way of gifting these kids the knowledge to make sound choices when they eat and will hopefully encourage them to try foods they may not otherwise.

If just one of these kids goes home with a new skill - either in the garden, or in the kitchen, or in the choices they make about food I will feel happy.

Today I am off to meet with the Student Representative Council to talk about our first food event to be held on World Food Revolution day.
On this day the kids will be cooking soup to be sold to the school community to fundraise to get this programme up and running.

Once we get our patches going I will be cooking with groups and they will sell the food they cook at the canteen.  All funds made will roll back into the scheme.

The motto for the programme:

BY the kids... FOR the kids.

Ham, Cheese and Basil Quiches.
Today I baked these super easy quiches to take along with me to the meeting to use as an example of the kind of foods we will be cooking.
Simple, quick, nutritious food using ingredients that we can grow in the school Veggie patch.

Basil is coming to an end as we hit Autumn and so I am using it as much as I can while it is still in the garden.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (makes about 20 mini quiches or 6 large muffin size ones)

  • 4 eggs
  • 100ml cream
  • 10 leaves basil, chopped
  • 3 slices ham, chopped into small squares
  • 100g grated cheese
  • 1-2 sheets puff pastry.
  • aleppo pepper for sprinkling on top (a mild chilli that gives a lovely sweet bite- not necessary but YUM!) 
Preheat oven to 200C.

In a large bowl mix eggs with all other ingredients (except the Aleppo pepper) and whisk till combined.

Cut the puff pastry into 4 large squares and then cute each square again into four.

Spray a mini muffin tin with oil and place the puff squares into them.

Spoon carefully about a tablespoon of mix into each one.

Sprinkle with aleppo pepper and pop into oven for about 25 mins or until brown.

Preferably get your kids to cook these!  They really really CAN if you let them.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

An ode to Maggie & Figs.

This week has been a bit rubbish in the health stakes.

I got sick with a bad head cold that left me feeling really flat. Bleurgh.

Still can't seem to shake it.
I am blessed with really good health and it is a rarity for me to get sick. I'm not very good at going slow so me & sick don't work very well together.
Inevitably my littlest got sick too.  A high fever and so a day of rest with me at home.
Then back to school as he seemed really fine.
Then late at night last night came the familiar seal-like bark of croup. He had it bad.
And so ensued a night of not much sleep and the need for a lazy day to follow.

We planted out our veg in our veggie patch which has lain fallow since our big house build. The early sun was lovely.
Gosh it's great to get our hands in the dirt again.  We have planted out some more fruit trees, a couple more gum trees and lots and lots of veggie & herb goodness for winter.

I bought some more seeds from this supplier. I love them as they have some of the little known Italian greens that I love.  I can't wait to harvest the Cima di Rapa (sometimes known as Rapini).

For now we wait......and tend.....and love.

In a few months we will once again be harvesting the goodness.

My love for Maggie Beer is well known.
I wrote an article about it here.

I LOVE figs but the season is very short. I always make batches of my Fig & Star Anise Jam to see my need for figs last through till the following season.
So today on our mooching around the house day I wanted to try and make my very own version of Maggie's incredible Burnt Fig and Caramel icecream which seems to have caught the nations tastebuds.

Mr Girlfriend gifted me an Icecream maker (I have wanted one for a very long time- so LUCKY!)and it has been all flavours go since! 
Yesterday I made Emma Dean's Licorice Icecream from her book 'A Homegrown Table'.
Emma is rad and so is her Licorice icecream and you should totally go and by her book! You really should! SO much great stuff in there! 

Anyway todays icecream was an experiment and I am pleased to announce it was a SUCCESS!
You have to love it when that happens in the kitchen!
So here is how to make your very own version of this Maggie Classic.
NB: this recipe requires the use of an ice cream maker & the use of full fat products to achieve the creaminess we all love in a good ice cream.

For the ice cream:

  • 4 tablespoons Fig Jam (i used my own but any good fig jam will do)
  • 2 1/2 cups thickened cream
  • 1 1/2 cups full cream milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • the scrapings of half a vanilla bean 
For the Salted Caramel:

  • 1 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 90g butter cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
To make the caramel, add sugar and butter in a pan over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture is frothy and bubbling.

Add cream and salt flakes and stir till the mix is quite foamy and syrupy.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

In a food processor mix together sugar, milk, vanilla and fig jam until well combined.
Now add the cream and mix well.
Refrigerate this for 2 hours so it is nice and cold before adding to your icecream machine.
This helps the fat solids bind and gives the icecream better texture.
I couldn't wait that long so popped it into the freezer for 15 minutes!

Now add to your icecream machine and mix until frozen.

Remove into a vessel for freezing and swirl through a generous amount of the cooled salted caramel.

Pop into freezer to harden nicely...if you can wait!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch & Cruden Farm

Cruden Farm had one of it's open days over the weekend.

We have been wanting to visit for years but invariably we remember to look at Open day dates the weekend just after one has been. Sigh.

Somehow this time we got it right and now with the great road upgrades to get there it was a quick 1/2 hour trip. Amazing.

I have admired Dame Elisabeth Murdoch all my life.
It was really something vey special to wander around the place where she brought up her four children.

Cruden Farm was given to her by her husband Keith as a wedding gift when she married him at 19 years of age.

She lived there until her death two years ago aged 103. An incredible woman.

Around the large property are many many white bench seats.
I wandered around imagining her sitting in them.  It made me smile. We sat in a few of them and I wondered what her life there might have been like.

I'm so glad she was alive.

Quick Asian style Calamari salad:
At the moment I am teaching a series of one on one private cooking sessions with a client.
She has GREAT taste in food.
Lots of great flavours and nutritious eating. Right up my alley.
This week she wanted some help cooking up a Prawn and Tofu salad from a Neil Perry cookbook (not sure which one- sorry!)

As we were cooking it I told her I wanted to come back to her place for dinner too! It smelt so fresh and full of the flavours I LOVE.
I couldn't wait- so on the way home I stopped in at the fishmonger and got a small piece of calamari and made my own version.
Lots of people are scared of cooking calamari- the trick to success in this instance is to heat the pan till almost smoking and flash fry it super fast at high heat until opaque.
It will probably only take a couple of minutes.


  • 300g calamari & cleaned cut into rectangles about 5cm long and scored in a criss cross pattern- do this gently so as not to cut through the calamari entirely.
  • 250g mixed salad leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, roots washed well & chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 bunch mint, chopped coarsely
  • 4 large red chillies (less if you are not a chilli fiend and perhaps remove the seeds & membranes)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • 2 red shallots
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 250g bean sprouts
  • rice bran oil
In a food processor blitz the red chillies, the red shallots, the sugar and the roots and stalks of the bunch of Fresh coriander.

Remove and place into a jar or bowl.  Add tamarind water & fish sauce. Mix well. 

In a large salad bowl mix together the salad leaves, the bean sprouts, the remaining fresh coriander and mint.

Add 3 tablespoons of the chilli dressing & mix through well with your hands.

Heat a non- stick pan to high heat and carefully add a teaspoon Rice bran oil.
Add prepared Calamari immediately and stir fry till just opaque- a minute or two.
Remove from heat and add to salad.

Toss well and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

How to make Thai Green Curry from the Paste to the Final dish

If you have ever wondered how to make Thai Green Curry paste then maybe you would like to come and do a Cooking Class with me?

Bookings and other information is available by clicking on the Clever Clogs Cooking Class logo on the right of this page.

There are currently two dates for this class- Friday March 28th and Friday May 2nd.

Bookings are now open for the March 28th class.

Other class dates (with different dishes) will be advertised sooner to the dates.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Idle Parenting

This week on Instagram I was asked by someone about how I managed to get the breakfasts I get ready while managing my family & home.
My kids are not that young any more- the youngest is 5 and the others are 7, 11, 13 & 15.  They aren't little bubbas who are constantly demanding my attention. So that helps a lot.
I have been cooking for a long time so I guess I am pretty fast at whipping stuff together. That helps too.

The weekends are a pretty slow affair at our house.  Bodies lazily roll out of bed one by one.  At any time it is a pretty relaxed household- but the weekends are super relaxed.  My boys are not the super loud bouncy variety but instead pretty calm and quiet.  And very very happy to spend days mooching around at home together.  This also helps!

We are a household that does not do any extra-curricular activities so there is no rushing to go anywhere. Our family life is busy and enriching enough. And we all need a rest. Time to do nothing at all.  Some of us have never learnt how to do 'nothing' & I wonder if this is a bigger problem in our society than any of us are really aware of.
Our family does a lot of 'nothing'.  We plan very little and make sure we have a lot of unscheduled time.  This also helps!

But I think it is my idle parenting that helps me most of all.

To me learning the difference of parenting how we want to versus what we think we should be doing is one of the hardest lessons of all.
I think us parents give ourselves such a hard time about 'how' we should be parenting instead of just doing it that we lose all ability to have confidence in ourselves at all.
It's ok to get it wrong.  Boy do we get it wrong sometimes..... Just as our parents did before us.  But that leaves us space to grow, to learn, to make changes.  And perhaps most importantly of all to tell our kids that we made a mistake.  To say sorry.
Is there a better thing to model to our kids than imperfection?

I'm just bumbling through this parenthood gig just like you and everyone else, trying to carve out a path that feels right to me. But more than anything I want my kids to know that my investment was in them and not in having a clean house & an orderly laundry.

I guess if I think about it I am an avid subscriber to the Idle parenting method. I haven't read Tom Hodgkinson's book but the snippets I read about it are very much the kind of parenting that takes place at our house.
We try not to overthink every single thing we do.  We make mistakes.  Lots of them. I don't want to spend every waking minute of being a parent thinking through every move I make to the point where I am actually missing out on the joy of raising my family.

I go with my general philosophy on life & sticking to the values I hold strong to my heart to guide me.  If I can go to bed knowing that I lived my day true to me then I am happy. That  often means going to bed with a sink full of dishes, an untidy floor and sometimes so many loads of laundry that I can't find the laundry floor because those things don't matter to me as much as living with meaning.

I trust my kids to make good decisions.  That doesn't always mean always making the right ones- but that is part of life's journey.  Getting it wrong is getting it right.  Learning to pick ourselves up after a hiccup is such an important skill to learn. I want them to know that an untidy house doesn't matter half as much as being a good human being.

So, in our house- especially on the weekends I leave my kids to it and interfere as little as possible.  I leave the mess that worries other people and get on with having fun, having chats, having laughs and cooking a delicious breakfast, that is sometimes not served till nearly lunchtime.

NB: For those of you who read last weeks post- PJ got the all clear!
I sobbed uncontrollably and made the vet cry too. But YAY!
The growth was some other weird thing that was NOT CANCER that I didn't hear through my ugly crying.  

Savoury Chinese Custard with Mushrooms, Fresh Coriander & Chilli
This dish is based on the one in latest pages of Feast magazine.
Chinese savoury custard is very easy and super delicious.  

It is light yet filling and can be topped with all manner of goodies.
It is a fab dish any time of the day.
It could be served for dinner alongside a big bowl of steamed greens.
Or as we have it- for breakfast alongside a big bowl of coffee.

  • 10 eggs
  • 250ml good quality chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced finely
  • 4 spring onions, sliced finely
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • 2 red chillies (optional)
  • 4cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs Chines black vinegar (Chinkiang - form your asian grocer)
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbs Rice Bran oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • white pepper
  • salt
Preheat oven to 150C.

Whisk eggs, stock, a few good grinds of white pepper, salt and 1 tsp sesame oil in a large bowl. Transfer to a large ovenproof dish.
Stir in half of the mushrooms and 2 of the spring onions.

Place dish in roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with boiling water till it reaches half way up the sides of the oven dish.

Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

While eggs are baking, fry up the rest of the mushrooms in the rice bran oil with the garlic & ginger till the mushrooms are nice and brown.

Take off the heat and set aside.

When eggs are baked remove from oven and top with cooked mushrooms and the extra spring onion, coriander & chilli.

Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Oh my how I love Joan.
Here is her new track......

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Strawberry Hunter

A couple of weeks ago I solved the problem of why we have never ever had a Strawberry from our strawberry patch.

Yuh huh.

Sprung,  Polly Jean!

If you haven't had the our Basset Hound, Polly Jean (AKA The Strawberry Hunter).

Today she is having surgery to remove a suspicious growth in her mouth.
What happens next we are yet to find out.

My eyes have sprung a leak.

GG's Voom Balls:
Yesterday I totally hopped on the powerball bandwagon.
Not the lottery type but the yummy energy food type.

Good lord they are DELICIOUS and take about 10 minutes.
Morning tea for the kids, and for me too.
My recipe is based on this one but I made a few changes.
And they are named after the secret ingredient to Dr. Seuss's fabulous Cat in the Hat's clean up abilities.
Do you reckon if I eat enough I might start being awesome at cleaning up too?
In the meantime I will be awesome at eating these.......


  • 400g pitted dates
  • 200g dried apricots
  • 200g sunflower seeds
  • 100g chia seeds
  • 5-6 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cacao (I used some gorgeous Grounded Pleasures African Red Drinking Chocolate powder (OMG so good!)that they gave me but ordinary Cacao will work fine!)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut
Blitz all ingredients in a food processor for about a minute - as this is quite a large quantity I halved the ingredients and did it in two batches.

Place a little mix into the palm of your hand and squeeze tight to form a ball.

Repeat and EAT- keep in refrigerator for a few days (bet they don't last!)

Yes our dog is named after Polly Jean Harvey.