Sunday, March 29, 2009


I've just discovered that the kids enjoy a meal of beans stewed with vegies and served atop brown rice. So I thought I'd ruin this fantastic new trend and make it so often that they get sick of it ;). But really... how inexpensive and healthy is it to fry onion and garlic, chop sundry vegetables (tonight, yellow zucchini, red capsicum and a few stray mushrooms), drain a can of beans, top with a can of chopped toms, then cook all together with extra virgin olive oil for 30 minutes or so while the brown rice cooks?? Delish served with feta cheese on top, and a baby rocket - cherry tom - cuke salad.


Dear Son (DS) cooked frittata from The Australian Women's Weekly Kids in the Kitchen. Steamed potatoes and sweet potatoes are layered with baby rocket and basil, and then an eggy-milky-cheesy slurry is poured over, and then the frittata is baked. The end result is almost identical to the cookbook picture!!! Even though it was pretty to look at I felt it was too bland. Perhaps we should try a stronger cheese next time, or more herbs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tiny toms from Choko Bai Jo

It's so important for me to be able to buy good quality fruits and vegetables. But I also need to have a grocery trolley when I buy them! Is this too much to ask?

I gave up on produce from Woolies and Coles grocery stores a decade ago. Our local IGA has pretty good fruit & veg in a pinch. But ideally I've been going every Friday to Wiffens at the Fyshwick Markets. Superb quality, grocery trolleys and Italian gentlemen who carry boxes out to your car (my devotion was so great that Dear Husband began to get jealous of my fruiterer).

But then the idea of local food appealed more to me in this age of climate change. We live very near the Capital Region Farmers Market. I gave it a go. Really I did. I bought some beautiful things. But aside from the dreadful traffic -- aside from the ridiculous hour you need to arrive on a Saturday morning -- aside from the fact that I have to divide the family into fruit gatherers and vegetable gatherers -- aside from the weekend throngs -- I couldn't bear it because I wanted a GROCERY TROLLEY so I could see all my leeks and beans and apples and zucchini and lettuce laid out in a row so I could say, yeah, that's the right amount. INSTEAD I'm schmucking around with green anti-plastic bags (I hate that green) forgetting what I've bought and wanting to buy LESS because it's already heavy and giving me a backache and feeling like I'm dropping money because I have to get it out so often (beans here, greens there).

Finally: almost a solution. Choko Bai Jo is a farmers outlet which is open during the week from 2 pm to 7 pm and thus I can avoid the weekend shoppers and to pay once. They sell their own produce plus other local produce, often picked that day. Including, for example, the pictured yellow grape tomatoes which were garden-delicious for dinner tonight (served with green beans, pesto pasta, and little patties of mince, carrot and spring onion).

Fatal flaw: no ^#$$#$#$ grocery trolleys. What is with these people!!! I will buy more if you let me push it around with a grocery trolley!

Explosions and fires

Today my husband learned that some experimental seeds he sent to a colleague were on a Fed Ex plane that crashed at Narita Airport.

And this is the view out my kitchen window. The neighbour's car mysteriously caught on fire yesterday. Thank goodness no-one was hurt. We were home but at the back of the house, far from the fire. I didn't consciously smell any smoke but I kept thinking I might have left the burner on under dinner accidentally. I came out to the kitchen to check... and still didn't notice the wall of flames out my kitchen window until someone knocked on my front door and told me to get out of the house NOW! The kids and I ran out and watched horrified as it threatened both nearby houses ... but not even the trees burned. Kind and confident firefighters soon arrived and put the whole thing out in two minutes.

Do fires come in threes?!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bermagui: the landscape

Bermagui: the food

We visited Bermagui this weekend.

Here's the view as we ate dinner at the Bermagui Beach Hotel Bistro. This is a traditional pub with reasonably priced family meals, with something for everyone on the menu (including a seafood platter, Dad!).

A coffee at Lamont's Lounge.

Smoked albacore from the Bermagui Smokehouse for lunch.

And finally: gelato from Cool-o-cream Gelati... though I prefer to call it the Bermagui Gelati Clinic due to its therapeutic qualities. 'Gelati' is spray-painted over 'veterinary' clinic which is a little off-putting until you see all the flavours... and then you forget everything when you taste it! This gelato is made with unusual ingredients donated by generous locals who share the extra bounty from their gardens.

We chose coffee, caramel cream, cherry guava and peach. Other favourites are kumquat, lemon, coconut, watermelon and yogurt. Next time I resolve to try green apple, red grape, and kefir (fermeted Tibetan milk with astonishing and varied health promoting effects, apparently).

Essential for lime addicts

In the morning I drink a big glass of water with the juice from half a lemon or lime. Thank you to Margot for this birthday present which immediately became essential. It squeezes almost all the juice out quickly and easily... and the seeds stay behind.

While less essential, the mini lime green cutting board Makes Me Happy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

4 o'clock brown rice

I love brown rice... but I don't think I will ever be able to move from part-time to full-time work because the best way to make it is to start soaking it at 4 o'clock. After an hour, I turn the rice cooker on and it's ready by 6 o'clock.

Perhaps I'd need to start working full time to have an excuse (and the funds!) to buy a Zojirushi rice cooker. Some of their models have settings for brown rice and whole grains (quinoa porridge? spelt pilaf?) as well as a delay timer so that the rice is cooked at a specific time (the next morning or when you get home in the evening). All but one of the models has a melody signal too... what's not to love... though a melody signal sounds like something you might grow to hate depending on the melody.

Tonight the brown rice was served with Mexican kidney beans, roasted sweet potatoes and yogurt.

Monday, March 16, 2009

4 o'clock soup

At that grim after-school hour when it appears that you have nothing for dinner, unite 1-1/2 cups red lentils, chicken stock, and all lonely vegetables wandering lost in your refrigerator. Cook until vegetables socialise. Serve in a flower bowl which Makes You Happy, with a salad nearby.

3 burgers + 1 tofu burger + buns

Ever since the day before Year 1, my daughter has been a vegetarian. I admire her perseverance... I'm a wannabe vegetarian but the lure of the hamburger on the BBQ is too tempting for me. Pictured is a typical compromise. When I grill hamburgers I also cook Soyco tofu which comes in a range of marinades (Japanese, Malaysian peanut satay, Chinese honey soy, Thai).

If we have meat for a meal, she can choose to substitute with this tofu or a tin of beans. And she does -- cheerfully, even if the beans are dumped cold and unceremoniously onto her plate. She inspires us to eat more vegetarian meals.

My mother's carrot cake

My mother travels the world to test carrot cakes. But this recipe is her favourite -- and mine at this time of year.

2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups oil
4 eggs
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups grated raw carrot
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut
1 440 g (13-1/2 ounces) tin crushed pineapple, undrained

Grease pan. My mother uses a 10x14 inch (25x35 cm) pan. If you use the more common 9x13 inch (22.5x32.5 cm) pan, make 6 regular sized muffins as well (the cake will not cook sufficiently in the centre if you use all the batter in a 9x13 inch pan).

Preheat oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Mix sugar, oil and eggs well. Sift dry ingredients. Mix with egg mixture. Add carrots, nuts, coconut and pineapple. Bake for 45 minutes.

Ice with cream cheese 'frosting': 250 g (8 ounces) cream cheese, 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 4 cups icing sugar.

Perfect for a birthday cake. Though perhaps not as memorable as my cake 38 years ago.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Salmon on the BBQ

This was the first time I tried to BBQ salmon steaks on my (oh dear do I keep mentioning it?) Weber BBQ (oh but I love it).
Let me count more ways I love it... remember all those times you've tried to grill fish and when you flip it over the fish sticks to the grill and you end with a ragged fishy mess? Welcome to my new world. Whack the fish on the super-hot W*e*b*e*r B*B*Q ... reduce burners from high to medium... walk inside to take the roast potatoes out of the oven... walk outside full of apprehension... open the cover and easy-squeesy flip the salmon over. No sticking. Photogenic BBQ stripes. Cook a few more minutes then place triumphantly on dining table.

Podfood brekky

Podfood is my favourite place to go for breakfast. The restaurant is in an old cottage in beautiful gardens, with a nursery next door with original art to browse. The food is divine. This Sunday morning was not disappointing -- though I found it very expensive ($17 a breakfast, plus a 10% surcharge for Sunday). The Persian fetta made me forget the price though. And aren't the tomatoes impossibly perfect. My choice: pan seared field mushrooms on toast with slow roasted tomato and Yarra Valley Persian fetta

Poached free range eggs with slow roasted tomato, crisped bacon and wilted baby spinach on toast

French toast with maple syrup, poached berries and raspberry yoghurt

Lentil and sweet potato samosas

These vegetarian samosas are adapted from an excellent puff pastry cookbook which the folks at Pampas kindly sent me. As with most Indian food, start by frying a finely chopped onion and a garlic clove. Then add 1 tablespoon curry paste, juice of half a lemon, a drained can of lentils and 300 g cooked vegetables -- here boiled cubes of sweet potatoes, though leftover roast potatoes or peas work well too.
At this stage you need an eight-year-old daughter with an enthusiasm for cooking (otherwise you can do the next part yourself). Cut thawed puff pastry squares into fourths, then enclose a decent spoonful of the filling in whatever envelope fold you desire (if you are using the eight-year-old option, the origami folding that ensues may be more creative than the standard triangle favoured by staid middle-aged cooks). Brush with egg and milk wash, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 220oC. Delicious to nibble while watching Edward Scissorhands.

Hakubaku noodles

The bottle of wasabi noodle sauce said enjoy with hakubaku noodles... and we did! The noodle sauce is not too spicy ... only a mild horseradish flavour with the consistency of thinned mayonnaise.

This was a quick room-temperature dish to make on a hot summer evening. I boiled the green tea noodles, then added chopped vegies (capsicum, cucumber, spring onions), tofu (marinated Japanese flavour) and about 1/3 of the bottle of noodle sauce. Served with fresh beets topped with chopped spring onions to be fancy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pesto & plums

My dear daughter (DD) has been very interested in cooking lately. She especially enjoys improvising a 'salad of the imagination'!

Tonight we made pesto pasta together. For salads, DD chose a simple bowl of chopped fresh vegies and a side of mashed avocado, tomatoes, lemon juice and yogurt.

Dessert was my department. I made a cake using old-fashioned tart plums from our neighbour's tree. The recipe was adapted from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf, one of my favourite cookbooks. Beat 125 g butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and creamy. Add 2 eggs and beat well, then stir in 1-1/2 cups self-raising flour. Spoon into an oiled and baking-paper-lined 24 cm round cake tin. Top with halved plums. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 160 °C (or 1 hour for a 22 cm cake tin).

Majura Primary School Kitchen Garden

At the end of 2008 I was thrilled to learn that my kids' school won funding to become the demonstration school in the ACT for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

Majura Primary School will build a teaching kitchen and will expand the existing environment courtyard into an even larger kitchen garden. Each fortnight all children in years 3 to 6 will spend 1 hour gardening and 1-1/2 hours cooking and sharing a meal using ingredients from the garden, guided by a kitchen specialist and a garden specialist. The aim of this program is expressed on the foundation's website:

The creation and care of a Kitchen Garden teaches children about the natural world, about its beauty and how to care for it, how best to use the resources we have, and an appreciation for how easy it is to bring joy and wellbeing into one’s life through growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing fresh, seasonal produce.

I'm looking forward to volunteering my time to help kids cook (and eat!) in the kitchen. What a positive and joyful experience to share with children.

If you live in Canberra you can get involved as well -- even if you don't have children at Majura! Check out the website for more information or call the school, 6205 5711.

Happy 80th birthday to Auntie Jo!

On Sunday it was my Auntie Jo's 80th birthday. We had a lunch with the extended family. Jo is a kind and generous woman and it is a pleasure to spoil her on her birthday. She told me that it was the best day of her life -- except for when her children were born, she quickly added.

Cousin Sue and I were in charge of salads. She made a delicious lettuce salad with roast pumpkin and mushrooms, and a Greek salad with a macadamia nut dressing.

I made three salads:

  • Red capsicum, eggplant and zucchinis roasted on the Weber BBQ then marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette (5 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, garlic) and served atop baby rocket.
  • A bean salad in a mustardy lemon vinaigrette (90 mL fresh lemon juice, 180 mL olive oil, a good spoonful of French mustard). To three cans of beans, I added corn, celery, red capsicum and red onions for crunch.
  • Pasta tossed with pesto and topped with cherry tomatoes, served at room temperature.
Cousin Margaret brought cold cuts: chicken, ham, lamb. Others made boiled potatoes and sliced sourdough bread. Check out the spread!