Thursday, 25 December 2008

One More......

... bud to open.

My mum said she could never get these orchids to flower, and I have to admit that it did take 2 years for this one to flower, but like all good things, it was worth the wait.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Paper Chef - December Issue

Its my favourite time of the month - Paper Chef time!
Last months winners, MizD & Chopper Dave from
Belly Timber had the privilege of selecting 3 random ingredients from the nominated list & one of their own choosing. So what combination did we get to cook with?
Blood Orange
& their selection of Crustacean (lobster, crab, prawn etc).
There was a bit of leeway with the type of crustacean. I decided to go with prawns, though the Morton Bay Bugs I saw at the market last week had me tempted. As I usually do I went through a process of ideas that were quickly rejected (blood orange & prawn risotto?) and settled on an Asian influence with sweet & spicy flavours: Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns with Coconut Rice.
After fighting the crowds to get to Prahran Markets I found my favourite fishmonger had some unusual prawns available, Schooling Prawns to be precise. these were quite small, about the size of your finger or smaller. Never having cooked with them before, & it being a Paper Chef challenge, I thought why not? Being so small I asked if they were easy to peel? & the response I got was - they can be eaten as is, like whitebait.
Next time I'm peeling them. While they were eatable with the shells, the texture wasn't that pleasant. Live & learn I guess.

Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns with Coconut Rice.

For the marinade:
30ml Brandy
juice & zest from 1 blood orange (about 1/3 cup)
1 tbsp Balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 ½ tsp capers
1 tbsp slivered almonds, roasted
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 cup finely chopped parsley
½ tsp dried chili or 1tsp finely chopped, de-seeded fresh red chili (add more or less to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.
Let stand at least 1 hour.

Coconut rice:
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
½ cups water
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup jasmine or long-grain rice

Rice cooker:
Rinse the rice thoroughly until the water runs clear to remove any starch.
Place all the ingredients into a rice cooker & cook.
When ready fluff with a fork.
Stove top (you will need to double the amount of liquid):
Place water and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the rice, return to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir well.
Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 5 minutes.
Drain and fluff with a fork.

Blood Orange & Brandy marinated Prawns:
200g uncooked whole prawns
Marinade made earlier
1 blood orange, segmented & cut into pieces & allowed to drain

Shell the prawns & place in a bowl
Add the prepared marinade & marinade for 30-60 minutes.
Heat a little oil in a pan & add the prawns & marinade
Fry the prawns until they are just cooked.
Remove the prawns & cook the marinade until its sticky & thick.
Add segmented orange pieces & heat through.
Return the prawns & coat with the sauce.
Serve immediately with the coconut rice & Asian greens or rocket salad.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Street Art

Wondering the streets of Melbourne you sometimes come across something curious, that grabs your imagination and makes you appreciate peoples creativity.......

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Paper Chef - November

Welcome to my new blog, and what better way to start than with a Paper Chef challenge.
This month the event was hosted by last months winner Magnus .
As winner he has the honour of posting this months four key ingredients and posting the round up. So this month we had Turkey, Anaheim peppers, Winter Squash, & Lentils.
A quick Google & worked out Winter Squash = Butternut Pumpkin, then off to the markets I went, where I discovered that there were no Anaheim peppers to be found. The closest I could find in shape & size were European Sweet Peppers, so that is what I used.
Next stop, my favourite poultry & game shop for turkey some turkey breast, which they had sold out of. Not good. I could have bought a whole turkey but that would have been overkill for just 2 of us, and i wasn't going anywhere near supermarket bought turkey! So another substitution happened - Chicken Breast.
And what combination was I going to do?
Poached Turkey (chicken) breast with marinated peppers on a bed of Bondi (french) Lentils and roasted caramelised butternut pumpkin.

1 Turkey breast (or 2 chicken breasts)
100g French or Bondi lentils, cooked until al dente
100g butternut pumpkin (winter squash) cut into 1cm cubes
2tbls golden syrup
Anaheim or sweet peppers
Chicken stock
Handful rocket
Finely diced red pepper for garnish

Roast the peppers in a hot oven or over an open flame until the skin blisters. place in a bowl & cover with cling film & allow to cool before peeling & de-seeding. I then marinated the peppers in herbs, chilli & olive oil.
Toss the cubed winter squash in the golden syrup & roast in a hot oven until the start to caramelise.
bring the chicken stock to a simmer then poach the meat until its firm to the touch.
Remove from the stock & allow to dry on kitchen paper.
When dry pan fry the breast to colour the meat.
Toss the warm lentils with some rocket and arrange on the plate.
Slice the meat & arrange on top of the lentils.
arrange some of the marinated peppers on the meat and garnish with some of the finely diced red pepper.
Sprinkle some of the roasted winter squash around the plate.
If you wish you can drizzle some of your favourite dressing over the dish.

As with all my Paper Chef recipes all quantities are very approximate as I never know what amounts will work....

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Paper Chef - October

The start of a new month brings with it joys, hopes, a new season (sometimes) and always a daring instalment of The Paper Chef.
I'm excited by the concept of Paper Chef. My partner Paul, on the other hand, is not looking forward to the “science experiment” that I will invetibly come up with. My creations haven't been that bad! Seriously... But this month, upon learning the ingredients Paul announced he was cooking. How weird could I get using this months ingredients: Beetroot, Apple, Ginger & Rice??
So I am proud to present Paul's entry for the paper chef: Green Apple Risotto with Beetroot and Ginger “agrodolce” and Walnuts.

1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
A splash olive oil
200g aborio rice
50ml dry white wine
Chicken stock, heated
Fresh black pepper
Sea salt
Cheddar cheese
Parmesan cheese
Unsalted butter
200g Granny Smith apple
Freshly roasted walnuts, chopped
6 beetroot (golf ball size)
Ginger, microplaned (to taste)
10ml balsamic vinegar
10ml vincotto
pinch sugar
30ml extra virgin olive oil
Parsley leaves

Wrap the beetroots & apple in foil and bake in a 180c oven until tender.
Puree the apple.
Peel & neatly chop the beetroot into 1cm cubes.
Combine the vinegar, vincotto, ginger, sugar and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beetroot and allow to marinate at room temperature.
Over a low heat sweat the olive oil, onion, celery for 10 minutes- do not allow to colour.
Add the rice and cook gently for a few minutes.
Add the wine, turn the heat to medium and allow the wine to absorb and reduce. Now begin to add the hot stock, ladle by ladle. Allow each ladle of stock to be fully absorbed before adding the next ladleful. Give the rice a stir with every ladleful of stock.
Once the rice is al dente, add the apple puree and heat through.
Turn off the heat.
Add a generous knob of butter, parmesan and cheddar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the risotto on a plate with the beetroot and ginger “agrodolce” and sprinkle with the roasted walnuts. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Breaking Free

Plants are amazing...
This fig tree is growing through a gap in a boarded up building.

Reaching for the sun.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Paper Chef - Swptember

And this month, I do have to say, it was a tricky one.
If you haven't heard of The Paper Chef, check it out:
The Paper Chef.

We have to create a dish using all four of the nominated ingredients.
This month we had to use:
Rice-paper wrappers (or some other wrapper)

At first glance these ingredients did not complement each other at all!

And to complicate matters, I'd never use quinoa before.
After a bit of thinking I came u p with the idea of quinoa wrapped in rice paper with some dipping sauces. Boring & didn't quite have the "I want to eat it now" factor. I bounced the idea off the other half and, after he stopped laughing at my pronunciation of quinoa (pronounce it keen-wa NOT kwin-o-a), a more palatable dish appeared: spicy lamb & quinoa, wrapped in crispy fried rice paper, with 2 dipping sauces: chilli & tomato, and a minted yogurt.

Some research on the net on how to prepare quinoa was my next step, and surprisingly it is easy to prepare: thoroughly rinse the grain & then into a rice cooker in a ratio of 1 part grain to 2 parts water (no salt was added). Very easy!

The filling was based on a samosa recipe making it slightly spicy, but this was tempered by the quinoa. The mixture was then wrapped in rice-paper, fried & and served hot. In hindsight I would now have used wonton wrappers as they would crisp up better than the rice paper, but I was sticking to the ingredients.

2cm piece grated ginger
1 large onion chopped
2 Tbls chopped mint
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
250g lamb mince
1 tomato peeled & chopped
Juice of half a lemon
2/3 cup quinoa
Rice-paper rolls
Oil for frying

Dipping sauces
100ml yoghurt
1 Tbls chopped mint
100 ml tomato coolie
1 tsp sambal (chilli paste)

Gently fry the ginger, onion, & mint until the onion is soft and golden.
add the curry powdder & salt and stir through. add the lamb and lightly brown.
add the tomato and cook over a low heat until the moisure has evaporated.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. allow to cool.
add the cooked quinoa, the amount of quinoa that you ad depends on taste, you may want more or less, and combined thoroughly.

To assemble the rolls
Soak each rice paper roll in hot water until just soft. Do not let the rice paper soak too long as it will become too soft & will disintegrate.
Lay it out on a clean tea towel
Place a heaped table spoon of mixture on the lower third of the rice paper roll
Fold in the bottom, then both sides and tightly, but gently, roll the rice paper into a roll
Repeat with the next roll.

To prepare the dipping sauces:
Combine yoghurt & mint (too easy).
Combine tomato coolie & chilli (too easy again).A tomato coolie is a reduction of tomato, onion, celery, carrot & herbs that has been passed through a moulie.
Cook the rolls in some hot oil to crisp up the skin & drain on paper towels.
Serve with the dipping sauces.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Paper Chef - July

This month for the Paper Chef we had to use the following ingredients:
Fresh oregano, Walnuts, Chickpea or Chickpea flour and
Fish steaks.

Now what to do with these ingredients?
After a trip to our local market for fish I settled on creating a salad of some type. A bit of discussion with Paul as to how to combine the ingredients we settled on the following combination:

Chickpea salad with Rainbow Trout Steaks and Walnut & Oregano sauce

For the Salad:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tin chickpea
1 tbsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 large handful wild rocket

Gently sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil along with the chilli till soft.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the pan along with the finely shredded oregano.
Gently stir the chickpeas till they are heated through & coated with the onion mixture. Season with salt. Remove from the heat & toss with the rocket.

For the Fish:
2 rainbow trout fillets, cut into steaks
Chickpea flour

Dust the trout steaks with flour. It prevents the fish from sticking to the pan .
Pan fry over medium heat skin side down for about 1 minute then turn over and fry for a further 1 minute, or until cooked to your liking.
Drain on paper towel to remove the excess oil.

For the Pesto:
100g walnuts, roasted till golden
Lots of fresh parsley and oregano
50ml olive oil
Salt & pepper to season
Lemon zest & juice (to taste)

Throw it all into a food processor & blend. Add lemon zest & juice to taste & season as needed.
If the pesto is a bit thick add some water to dilute.

And to assemble:
Place the warm salad on a plate & arrange the trout steaks around salad and serve with pesto on the side.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Daring Bakers - Dainish Braid

Yes its that time of month again, The Daring Bakers Challenge.
Thos month was something a bit different. Something that I had never contemplated creating, but have eaten on numerous occasions. Danish Braid.
I actually found this recipe fairly easy. There were no unusual ingredients to source and the method was nothing unusual. My only problem was timing. I didn’t read the recipe all the way through when planning my timings. I started my creation mid-late afternoon. That would have left plenty of time to prepare, rollout the pastry four times, chilling it for 30minutes between each turn, preparing the filling, and assembling it for baking. I didn’t read that I had to let the pastry chill for 5 hours after the final turn, and didn’t read that I had to let it prove for 2 hours after assembling it. Lets just say it ended up being a late night…
The recipe stated that there was enough pastry for 2 braids, So I made 2 braids over 2 nights, one with the apple filling & the other with cream cheese & black cherries.
The pictures you see here are of the 2nd braid. The first was not a braid but a rope. I’d cut the slits down the wrong (long) side of the pastry. Still, the apple filling was nice! This braid i glazed with a cherry syrup, for a dash of colour.
Now onto next months challenge. Hopefully a recipe without buttercream!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Paper Chef - June

Here I am doing a last minute write up for my entry for The Paper Chef. This was meant to be created & posted yesterday, but a slight hitch with Paul’s Kangaroo tail lasagna meant everything was set back a day…. (The lasagna was divine by the way).

The gorgeous Ilva from
Lucullian Delights and more recently The Paper Chef is promoting this event. And what is the Paper Chef? It’s a challenge using four selected ingredients & creating something out of it in a limited time. Think of the love child of the TV shows “Ready Steady Cook” and “The Iron Chef” and you get the general idea.
This month we had the following ingredients:

English Peas (?)

Like Ilva, I’m still trying to work out what English peas are! So I stuck with the frozen variety... Otherwise sourcing the ingredients wasn’t a problem.

Now what to do with these ingredients?
I decided to do a cross-cultural collision:
Buckwheat galettes (recipe courtesy of Rick Stein) made into parcels filled with ground lamb & peas and served with a leek soubise.
The parcel idea came from childhood memories of my grandma’s meat filled crepes.

Buckwheat Galettes
75g buckwheat flour
25g plain flour
large pinch of salt
120ml Milk
120ml water
2 medium eggs, beaten
25g melted butter, plus extra for cooking

Sift the buckwheat flour, plain flour & salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.
Mix the water & milk and whisk enough into the flour to make a smooth batter.
Lightly whisk in the eggs and warm melted butter. Do not over beat the mixture or it will become elastic resulting in tough galettes.
Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.
Just before you are ready to cook stir in a little more of the water/milk, until the mixture has the consistency of double cream.
Brush the base of a crepe pan with a little melted butter and pour in a thin layer and swirl the pan so the mixture lightly coats the base.
Cook over a high heat until lightly browned.
Flip the half cooked galette out onto a plate and continue cooking the remaining batter. Do not cook both sides!

400g Lamb mince
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown the mince in olive oil & add oregano.
Season with salt & pepper.
Add the peas & set aside to cool.

Leek Soubise
1 leek juliennned
béchamel sauce (left over from the lasagna)

Sweat the leek in butter. When tender add the béchamel. Enrichen withcream. Use a stick blender to whiz some of the leek into the sauce.

Place 1-2 spoonfuls of the lamb onto the fried side of the crepe, the fold in the bottom, sides & finally top to create a parcel. Repeat with the remaining crepes.
Shallow fry the parcels in oil/butter over a medium heat, folded side first to seal the parcel, then flip when the parcel is a nice golden brown colour.

I served these with the Leek sauce drizzled on top, but in hindsight (an amazing thing) I should have combined the sauce with the lamb inside the parcels.

Its fun being creative & inventive & I love The Paper Chef and its challenges!

12June08 i just added the logo at the top, created by Toontz of Okara Mountain

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Daring Bakers - Opera Cake

Yes… another month has passed and its time for the next installment of the Daring Bakers Challenge.
This month it is Opera cake.
We were given instructions: it had to be white. No chocolate or coffee or dark colours. Why? Because its spring and everything is fresh & light. Well maybe in the northern hemisphere. But half the world is actually in the southern hemisphere and its autumn here. But I have stuck to the theme and kept it light & white & seasonal.
An Opera cake is a cake that is made up (usually) of five components: a jaconde (a cake layer), a syrup (to moisten the jaconde), a buttercream (to fill some of the layers), a ganache (to top the final cake layer) and a glaze (to cover the final layer of cake or of ganache). We were given a bit of leeway with the type of nut used in the jaconde. I went with a macadamia nut. Freshly cracked macadamias, coarsely ground to give some texture to the cake. This turned out quite nicely with a nice light colour and delicious flavour. The jaconde was then bathed in a syrup to give it some moisture. I had decided that mandarin was going to be the main flavour for my Opera cake. So the zest of the mandarin was used in the ganache and the juice was used in the syrup. As neither Paul nor myself are fans of the dreaded “buttercream” (read cholesterol, waistline spread, blocked arteries) I chose to go with a lighter vanilla ricotta cream for the layers. The only problem I had in assembling the cake was the glaze. It kept wanting to drip down the sides of the cake. Letting it cool slightly helped resolve that problem but didn’t give a mirror like finish to the cake. Oh well, can’t have everything (but I do try).

End result was a cake which I was very pleased with. Light & white with flecks of orangey/gold. And also had Paul’s approval (no mean feat!).
So another Daring Bakers Challenge is completed & consumed. What will be next?????

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Daring Bakers - Cheese Cake pops

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was something a bit different, Cheesecake Pops. The idea of taking a baked cheesecake, rolling it into balls & dipping into chocolate was different & somewhat appealing. Work commitments this month actually spared me enough time to do the Daring Bakers Challenge. I admit I did make some modifications to the recipe. Bad me. But 5x 8-oz packs of cream cheese is way too much for just 2 health conscious guys. So I made 1/5th of the recipe. The other modification was no vanilla extract - just the seeds from a very plump vanilla pod. The cheesecake mixture turned out very creamy and delicious, so delicious that it almost didn’t get baked, thanks to Paul constantly tasting the mixture! But baked it was & the result was perfectly golden topped & moist. It’s definitely a recipe that will be made again.
Rather than weighing each ball, I rolled them into walnut sized balls (as stated in the recipe) and realized that I had too many balls. The original recipe said it made 30-40 balls, 30-40 divided by 5 is 6-8. I had a dozen. Oops. So I tried to increase the size. Mistake. The cheesecake was becoming too soft to remold into larger balls, so it was the walnut sized balls rather than 2oz balls. These were then frozen & then dipped into melted 70% cocoa chocolate. To let the chocolate set evenly I wedged them between two thick cookbooks (thanks to Maggie & Stephanie).
The end result? Beautiful soft delicious cheesecake coated with thin crisp chocolate coating. In hindsight I’d use chocolate with a much lower cocoa content. Even the thin coating was overpowering the delicate cheesecake. The mistake with the size of the balls was for the better. Larger balls would have been harder to eat neatly. These were just the right size.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Favourite Photos

I was just tagged by Paz from The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz for a meme called 10.
10 what?
10 of my own favourite food photo's.
It sounded easy till I started going through all the photo's that I had taken of Paul's cooking (& my own). Two days later & I've finally decided. Paul might not agree, but here they are:

I'd just come home from the markets with these very fresh tomatoes.

One of my favourite pastimes is making pasta, & eating it of course!

I really can't remember what this dish was, but it looks great.

Truffles. Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a brown lump of fungus?

Paul had just zested some limes for a dish & left them sitting on the bench. Very much a spur of the moment photo.

Alfajores & hot chocolate...

Some artisic pics...


Strawberry Jam

And to finish it all off, some humour. This is what happens when you try to be too creative. I call this "sunbaking quail"

This is the part that I hate. selecting others to carry on the meme. So rather than pointing the finger at people I'll let you decide if you want to be tagged.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Paper Chef

When Ilva announced that she was resurrecting The Paper Chef, both Paul & myself wanted to participate. So, rather than combining our talents and creating one entry, we decided to do one each.
You’ve seen Paul’s entry, and here is my attempt.
Given what the four Paper Chef ingredients were – bacon, potato, plum tomato, and swede, I decided to use primarily those four ingredients.
I steamed some of the swede & mashed it with some salt, pepper & cream.
I created some chips by slicing & frying the potato and some of the swede.
The plum tomato was roasted with some a touch of garlic, bay leaf & olive oil. These were then mashed & the skins removed.
And simply fried the bacon.
The end results were some petite little morsels.

To the right we have a potato chip, smeared with mashed swede, drizzled with roasted plum tomato and sprinkled with finely diced bacon.
To the left we have a tasty little sandwich of potato chip, bacon, roasted tomato & topped with a swede chip (Swedish chip??).
I enjoyed letting my imagination run riot & creating these promising little mouthfuls. Some fine-tuning and they will be superb.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Daring Bakers - Lemon Meringe Pie

Another Daring Bakers Challenge.
Another interesting recipe.
Another learning experience.

This challenge was a recipe which I have never made. Lemon Meringue Pie. I’ve made that type of pastry before. I’ve made meringues and pavlova’s before. & Paul has his own recipe for citrus curd. The challenge was to follow the recipe. While making the lemon curd, Paul was standing there asking me what on earth I was doing. “Following the recipe” was the obvious response. To which he replied. “That’s not any curd recipe I’ve ever seen” and left me to follow the recipe. Using exactly the ingredients, measures & procedures stipulated in the recipe, I was a bit perturbed to see the curd thicken, then go past the point that I would have considered “ideal”. Maybe the cornflour here in Australia is different to the USA. Who knows.
I also differed slightly in the construction of the pies. Instead of one large pie, or 6 free-form pies, I made eight individual pies, 3 each of 6.5cm, 8.5cm & 2 of 10cm diameter ramekins. After cutting out the pastry rounds, I upturned the ramekins & (covering them in foil) draped & pressed the pastry over the ramekins. Saves on blind baking & gave a nice home-style finish to the pastry. After the pastry is cooked, simply flip the whole ramekin & pastry onto a cooling rack.
The rest of the construction was as laid out in the recipe, with piped meringue to top it off. The end result was a series of good looking pies. We had the 3 smallest ones as individual desserts later that day, and friends acquired the other pies. Over all it was quite tasty, Paul suggested the lemon curd could be stronger in flavour & sweeter. I also thought that the curd was too firm in texture, making it chewier than I’d prefer. Still, it was fun making them. Next challenge please…

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Apples & Thyme - Figgie Lollies

I have fond memories of Christmas as a child with my family. The family dinner with the various different courses prepared by my paternal grandmother. From a very young age I can remember her serving these sugar coated, rolled balls of figs. I’m sure that there was a proper name for these sweets, but we always referred to them as “Figgy Lollies”. A traditional sweet that made its way to the Australian table from the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, via Zagreb, with our grandmother. Our Christmas table is incomplete now without them.

Sadly, my grandmother passed away and for the last few years my sister, Tess, has been making them. Thankyou Tess for preserving the recipe and ensuring it remains with us for all time, and thank you to Jeni at The Passionate Palate & Inge at Vanielje Kitchen) for hosting Apples & Thyme.
This year I thought I’d make them for the family, but with a few very slight changes. My grandmother coated the balls in sugar but we decided to experiment & rolled some in cocoa, and coated others with dark chocolate. Some we left plain, and of course some were rolled in fine sugar.
These need to be prepared at least three weeks in advance to allow them to dry sufficiently. And they are excellent as simple, tasty, presents!

500g dried figs (the drier the better)
1 thick skinned orange
125ml rum or brandy
400g dark brown sugar (approx)
Ground cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg

Finely chop the figs by hand with a sharp knife or puree in food processor.
Add the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, liquor and spices. Combine ingredients and cook slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally. My grandmother used a double saucepan over boiling water, but I simply used a saucepan.
The mixture should be a thick and sticky paste (do not be tempted to add water)- the colour will darken and the fig seeds obvious. The longer the mixture cooks the better, but be careful it doesn’t burn.
Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and put on a high shelf somewhere out of the way for a week or two. It is very important that the mixture be allowed to dry for 3 –4 weeks. It is ready when the mixture is dry to touch and somewhat set. Do not use an airtight container, for the obvious reason. Roll the fig mixture into balls (approx 2cm in diameter). Roll the balls in fine sugar (or cocoa and fine dark chocolate, as I did).
Place the Figgy Lollies in petit fours cases, and store somewhere dry until ready to eat.