Friday, December 24, 2010

Finally Christmas

The Albertine may have gone, but look what has come out just in time for Christmas Day.

We are having Christmas with my mother-in-law who is the most wonderful cook.  Always a very traditional lunch: turkey, ham, mountains of vegetables (including the old fave, tomato and onion pie).  Instead of plum pudding she makes a rather sensational sago plum pudding with custard. All I am contributing is the ham and some ocean trout tartare on blinis, both of which I am yet to make but if they look okay tomorrow I will take some photos.

Here is the glaze I use for the ham.  It is one that I snipped out of a newspaper years ago and works a treat:

Heat the oven to 180.  Put some foil or baking paper in a large roasting tin and put the ham on top.  
Pour over a couple of cups of cider.   Bake in the oven as is for about 45 minutes, basting every so often.
While that is happening, mix together:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teasp hot English mustard
2 teasp Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of marmalade (sieved)

Take the ham out of the oven and using a sharp knife make a criss cross pattern over the ham.  Insert a clove into each diamond.   Spread with the glaze and return ham to the oven for about 30 minutes until nicely glazed.

We will all fall into a screaming heap over the next few days and enjoy the fact that there will be no shearing and no trucks of lambs to load.  Trying to fit Christmas into our busiest time of the year is quite a challenge.  The exhausted husband stepped in the door half an hour ago and asked why we weren't either going to or having Christmas drinks when all he's done over the last week is complain about how flat out he is.  In other words, Lambchops why have you not organised some entertainment for me this evening???   I am just loving a glass of wine on the verandah and the serenity, thanks...

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I am so behind with my posts in the frantic lead-up to Christmas.  I picked these strawberries a couple of weeks ago and still have not had time to write about them.  They were beautiful but the birds got quite a few.  I decided to make some lovely pink Peach Sorbet to go with them:

Peach Sorbet

2 cups of sugar
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
3 ripe white peaches
2 egg whites

Combine sugar with one cup of water and juice of half a lemon in a saucepan and heat, shaking pan occasionally over a medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and cool.

Peel peaches (plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds to do this), remove stones and process flesh in a food processor with remaining lemon juice until smooth

Stir into cooled syrup

Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form, fold into peach mixture and churn in an ice cream machine (or transfer to a freezer proof container, freeze until just set around the edges, whizz in food processor again and freeze until set).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More from the fatted calf

Just when I thought I was getting the freezer under control,  two lambs have now arrived.  It's scary in there.  I know there will be things that I won't see for years.  I'm battling on though and because they take up so much space I thought I should start making stock out of all those bones.


1 bag of beef bones (from the butcher).  I'm not sure of the weight, just what will fit into your stockpot.  Try and get some knuckle bones and some with marrow which will add gelatin.
Olive oil
2 onions, not peeled, cut into quarters
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
Celery tops if you can get them or 2 sticks of celery cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, not peeled
handful of parsley (use leaves and stems)
2 bay leaves
10 or so peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 190.  Place bones, onions and carrots in a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes until nicely browned.

Pour the whole lot into the stock pot, getting all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add the celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns.  Fill the pot up with water and bring to a gentle simmer, reduce to low and do not let it boil madly, use a simmer pad if you have one, and cook for 3-6 hours.

Skim the stock every now and then but do not stir the stock while it's cooking. 

Cook for as long as you can then take out the bones and strain the stock into a large bowl, cool and refrigerate.  Remove any fat that has set on the top (don't be too fussy, the fat has flavour too) and put into containers to refrigerate or freeze.  It keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge.

This is what happens if you go off and do something else and it boils a bit too hard:

See how it is a bit cloudy....try not to do this, although the flavour is just as good.  Five hundred times better than those crappy dried stock cubes you get from the supermarket.

This was the Albertine rose ten days ago.  I so love the look of a pretty climber on a bluestone wall.  Sadly the rain last weekend completely trashed the flowers and I have had to cut them all back. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Love a good tray bake

I do this sort of food all the time.  It is so easy and a sort of no-brain, use what's in the fridge, chuck it in when you get home dish that always gets a rapturous reception from the starving hordes.

I find that bone-in chicken works the best for flavour and the cooking time required means that the skin gets nice and crispy.  I usually buy chicken marylands and cut off the drumsticks so the pieces are more manageable:

Then I add whatever vegies are at hand, usually red onion, cut into segments, red capsicum, cut into strips, sweet potatoes/carrots/pumpkin and sliced zucchini for a bit of colour. Throw in 4-5 whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, drizzle with olive oil and grind over a bit of pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt and that's it.  Into the oven for 45 minutes.

I put some asparagus in for the last 15 minutes.  Pour over the delicious pan juices when you are serving. Very good.

This was the sky on Thursday evening...looked very foreboding but we didn't get much rain.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Busy Week

It's been a busy week.  Tuesday night in Geelong, Wednesday night dinner for my mother-in-law's birthday, Thursday night in Robe, driving driving.  Thank god for talking books (this week The Distant Hours by Kate Morton).  It had been raining when I left home but when I got to Robe it was glorious sunshine and from my ailing parent's house we saw this tall ship:

It looked so majestic out there on the bay, it could have been a scene from Hornblower.

Back home to the rain and the news that my husband's grandmother had died.  She was 103 and died at home with the peaceful dignity with which she conducted her life.  A stylish woman to the end, at home she often wore a deer stalker hat, tweed trousers and a battered pair of desert boots, which made me love her even more.  To my children she was known as Very Old Gran (so not confuse her with their other, younger grans), and signed her letters to them thus.   One can only imagine what she has seen over the course of her life after having grown up in Toorak with a pony and a house cow at the bottom of the garden.  She loved roses, reading and racing, and I'm sure her interest in those things and the love of her large family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren was what kept her going for so many years.

Vale VOG (she loved a good Just Joey)

Not much time for cooking but this is what I did for Susie's birthday on Wednesday:

Yummy smoked trout on toast (sorry, no photo)
Roast pork belly (I used the leftover fennel/orange zest/salt from the seafood kebabs to salt it....delicious)

Crunchy potatoes, roasted asparagus with vinocotto and a green salad with roasted beetroot and Udder Delights  Goat's Curd (may very nearly replace Meredith Dairy if it's not careful)
and grilled stone fruit with honey and brown sugar

Monday, November 22, 2010


Fifteen years ago last Thursday in this wee church at Mt Schank, built by my husband's great grandfather, we were married:

We had a lovely anniversary dinner on Thursday night.  It is easier to stay at home in the country, I wanted the kids to join us and it was a school night.  It was too cold to sit outside as planned so we had it in the kitchen.  The Little Princess (10) set the table:

I made the yummy Jamie Oliver Seafood kebabs, with some extra fish and home made chips:

We washed it down with some Crawford River Rose, which I think will be my preferred drink of the summer.  A perfect match for seafood.

For pudding we had Nigella's Chocolate and Raspberry Pavlova, which is a firm favourite in our house:

There is a section with no strawberries because the LP doesn't like them.

Here is how I made the seafood "spiedini":

I put prawns, a fillet of fish cut into chunks and some ciabatta bread (a few chunks) in a bowl with a crushed clove of garlic, chopped chilli, the zest of one orange and a good slug of olive oil.
I picked about 8 long stalks of rosemary and threaded on the fish, prawns and bread.  You need to have the top of the rosemary stalks in tact as it looks nice.  

Wrap the kebabs with some pancetta and cook over a hot flame on the barbeque.   I just put the pancetta over the top so that the prawns would cook properly underneath, then flipped the whole lot over to char the pancetta.  We cooked it with the lid down and this seemed to work.

Jamie then had a flavoured salt to sprinkle over the top, which was good but a squeeze of lemon would do:
Pound a teaspoon of fennel seeds and the zest of an orange in the mortar and pestle and add 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt.  
As usual from Jamie, really delicious.

And I was most surprised to receive an actual present:

Drum roll....

Yes, behold the His and Hers spades.  I was actually quite pleased as he always pinched my old one and then it broke.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jamie (and the fatted calf, part one)

I love Jamie Oliver.  Love him.  Love his beautiful food and love that he is a man with a social conscience who puts his money where his mouth is.  Love that he fully gets flavour.  I also love that he performed an experiment that I have always wanted to do but could never be bothered.  On his website I found a recipe for beef casserole and he says that he has tried both sealing the meat first and not sealing the meat and chucking it all in.  I am delighted to report that he says there is no difference in the end result.  

Sealing casserole meat before cooking is supposed to a) seal in the juices and b) create nice brown bits on the bottom to enhance the sauce.  Which it does, but the trouble is it is a bit of a pain if you are in a hurry, because to be effective you need to put only a few pieces in at a time otherwise they stew, which at that point you don't want to happen.

So I found a bag of stewing steak from the fatted calf in the freezer (it seems like there are a thousand in there so I thought I'd better get cracking), and vaguely followed his recipe:

Beef and Root Veg Casserole (Jamie calls it Jools Favourite or some such if you want look here: )

1 onion, peeled and chopped
handful of sage leaves (don't chop)
800g stewing steak, cut into cubes
salt & pepper, flour to dust
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered (or eighths if large)
4 carrots, peeled and quartered
(He had pumpkin and new potatoes in his as well, but I didn't have either, didn't matter)
2 tblsp tomato puree
1/2 bottle nice red wine
300ml beef stock

Heat the oven to 160C.
Heat a nice heavy pot on the stove and add a tablespoon of olive oil and a knob of butter.  Add onion and sage and cook gently for 3-4 minutes until softened.

(Sorry for the blurry pic, I was having camera troubles)
Toss the meat in seasoned flour.  I do this in a plastic bag.  One tablespoon of flour should be enough.

Add meat to the pan with all the vegetables, puree, wine and stock.  Mix it all together gently.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Bring to the boil, put on the lid and cook in the oven 2-3 hours until the meat is tender.  Beautiful with mashed potatoes.  Jamie made a gremolata of chopped rosemary,  lemon zest and garlic which would have finished if off nicely.  It was utterly delicious and I suddenly realised why: grass-fed beef has such superior flavour to grain-fed.  All the more satisfying to know it is home grown too.  Always buy grass-fed beef if you can.  Worth every penny.

And since it is our 15th (gasp) wedding anniversary today I am cooking a slap-up dinner for the family, starting with some yummy looking seafood spiedini (on rosemary stalks) that Jamie did in the last issue of delicious magazine.  I'll let you know if it works.  He's a clever boy...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spring beef

The "Malus walk" is looking magnificent this year:

Malus ioensis or Betchel crab apple would have to be in my top five favourite trees.  So pretty and not too big.

But that is just a distraction, there are weeds out there, appearing overnight like the triffids, and the lawns need a weekly mow.    A cow has also ended up in my freezer.  Actually, it is a steer, and the freezer is absolutely chocker block, to the point that even if I take something out I have to repack it all so it fits back in.

Since there is also a couple of lambs in there, I'm guessing I won't have to go to the butcher for a while.  Carnivore though I am, I feel quite daunted about all that red meat.  After all, we are trying to eat less of it, although I have a husband and a son who wouldn't care if there was nothing else on the plate.  There are only two eye fillets and two scotch fillets, and I did ask for a wing rib, which you don't see around much these days, big treat.  Otherwise there is loads of corned beef, stewing steak, mince, sausages and topside roasts (which I'm not sure what to do with).  I will let you know as I progress..

Most farmer's wives are confronted with the same problem:  how to have lamb or beef three nights a week and still keep it interesting.  We can't just buzz to the shops to pick up something for dinner at the last minute so forward planning is essential.  First you  have to get the meat out of the freezer in time for it to thaw out (bone in can take up to 24 hours out of the fridge if the weather is cool).  Roasted legs of lamb are a fantastic family dinner and it is good to have the cold meat for sandwiches and salads.  What I really love to do though, is bone out the leg, marinate it, then cook it on the barbeque.

I am totally self-taught in the art of boning a leg of lamb, and although it's a bit rough, I can usually do it in about ten minutes.  This is a skill everyone who has a home grown meat supply should have as it is a classic, very easy, do-ahead dish (vegetarians and butchers please look away):

I have butterflied this leg and I then marinated it in olive oil, lemon juice, chopped garlic, a couple of chopped anchovies, rosemary and oregano for 12 hours.  I cooked it straight on the bbq, turning once for 45 minutes, allowing it to rest for 15 minutes.  All you need with it is some crispy potatoes and a leafy green salad.  I don't have a photo as I had had a couple of glasses of wine by then and forgot..

The dogs are very happy too.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spring lamb

It has occurred to me that lamb is supposed to be my thing and yet I haven't posted any lamb recipes yet.  This year's spring lamb is just starting to hit the markets (or in our case landed in my freezer) so I thought I should share a couple of our favourite lamb dishes.


This is a good way to groove up some chops and a good one for summer.  This amount should do about 8 chops.

2 tblsp crab apple or quince jelly
2 tblsp homemade tomato sauce
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp dry mustard (or you can use dijon)
1 dessp Worcestershire sauce

Put the chops in a large dish.  Mix all marinade ingredients together and pour over chops.

Leave in the fridge for as long as possible, half an hour is about the minimum, all day is good.
Cook on the barbeque.


I usually slow cook lamb legs or shoulders that have been in the freezer, or are somewhat older than what could be classed as "lamb".  You really need a bit of moisture in the pan when slow cooking.  This recipe is similar to the one Maggie Beer adapted from Skye Gyngell.

1 leg or shoulder of lamb
olive oil
4 cloves garlic (left whole)
3 shallots
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 1/2 cups white wine
either 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or 3 tblsp balsamic and 1 teasp sugar (the balsamic gives a much deeper and richer flavour)
 s & p

Heat the oven to 150c.  Trim the lamb and season well.

Heat a heavy roasting pan over a medium heat and when hot add a tablespoon of olive oil and put in the lamb.  Brown well on all sides.

Take the lamb out and return the pan to the heat, turn it down.  Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and soften gently, then add the rosemary.  Pour over the wine and bubble away, reducing slightly.  Add whichever vinegar you prefer and put the lamb back.  Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 3-4 hours. If it is drying out, add a slosh of water.  Take the foil off for the last hour or so. 

Carve the lamb and pour over the remaining juices.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Praise indeed

I had some very kind words pointed in my direction last Tuesday in Matt Preston's column in the Herald Sun:
Matt and I have been kitchen sparring partners since we shared a house together in Melbourne years ago when we were both courting our respective spouses.  Known for being a food critic and Masterchef judge he is an outstanding cook in his own right who is full of clever food ideas.  He always makes a huge mess and uses every pan in the kitchen when cooking but the results are always extraordinary.  And yes, he has been well-trained enough to wash up after himself.

Matt was the one who talked me into buying and ice cream machine many moons ago, and I am so glad he did.  I bought a very cheap one and it has never let me down.  Shop-bought ice cream contains a lot of weird ingredients that are not eggs, sugar, milk, cream plus flavouring and specialist ice creams are quite expensive.  I have tried many recipes with varying degrees of success but I could never quite get simple chocolate ice cream right.  There always seemed to be annoying bits of chocolate at the bottom that didn't quite melt and it was never really smooth.  But now (trumpet fanfare)  I think I have nailed it.

It was a classic case of a fluky experiment that worked (surely how most recipes are invented).  I had some leftover chocolate and cream mixture that I used for icing some cupcakes and for some reason mixing the cream with the chocolate helps to stop the chocolate from freezing up in little bits (be aware that I am no scientist...).  This is what I did:


100g milk chocolate, broken into bits (you can use dark, or a mix of both, my kids prefer milk)
1/4 cup cream
2 eggs plus one yolk
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cream extra

Melt the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan, stirring until melted and smooth.  Set aside.
Put the milk in a saucepan and bring nearly to the boil. (Keep an eye on it as it boils over quickly)
Using and electric mixer mix the eggs and yolk with the sugar until white and creamy (this will take a couple of minutes, scrape down the side as you go).
Slowly pour the milk into the mixer with the beaters on low to mix in.
Return the mix to the pan and heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Do not let it boil.
Add the chocolate and the extra cream and pour into a container.   At this stage Matt would say add a pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate flavour.  Put it in the fridge until cool.
Churn in ice cream machine according to instructions.

Then invite Matt over for a tasting, he has a most discerning palate....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Open garden season

Two of western Victoria's most spectacular gardens were open last weekend and we visited both of them.  We went to Mawallok at Beaufort to help set up, man the stalls and hopefully be of use. 

Is that not one of the best views you will see in Victoria?  Almost Capability Brown in its scale.  It is a reminder of the fortunes that were made from wool production last century and thank goodness it is now owned by a family who is prepared to maintain it in its full glory.

The kids got to do some apple bobbing:

The other garden, Woolongoon at Mortlake, is similarly beautiful, with stunning trees and historic buildings and again a custodian prepared to keep it in meticulous order.  I didn't take a photo there but here is a couple from the publicity:

I took a few bits and pieces to sell at Mawollok on Saturday and this one was a bit of a winner.  I can't take the credit for it though, the recipe for this was cut out of a magazine quite a few years ago, probably Gourmet Traveller or Vogue Entertaining & Travel, so apologies to its author, not sure who you are.


100g soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup SR flour
1 cup plain flour
150g raspberry jam (good way to use the jam I made the other day)
75g soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teasp bicarb soda
1/2 cup SR flour 
1/2 cup ground almonds
200g raspberries (can be frozen, take them out 15 minutes before)
50g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180C
Beat butter and sugar until light then add egg and mix until well combined.  Line a 20 x30cm lamington tin with baking paper.  Spread the batter evenly over the base in a very thin layer.  This is quite tricky and I find it easiest to wet my fingers and just squash it in gently.  Bake for 20 mins until lightly golden and cool (doesn't need to be completely cool).  Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the base.

For the topping, beat butter and sugar until light, add egg and mix well.  Add buttermilk, combined sifted bicarb soda and flour and the ground almonds and stir until smooth.  Spoon batter over jam mixture.  Dot the raspberries evenly over the batter then scatter with flaked almonds.  Bake at 180C until golden and firm to touch.  Cool in pan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Time to stock up on lemon cordial.  It is so easy, once you have made it, you will never buy cordial again.

1.5kg castor sugar
1 litre water
30g tartaric acid
30g citric acid
Strained juice of 7 lemons

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat and stir to dissolve sugar.  Add tartaric and citric acids and stir to completely dissolve.  Mix in juice and pour into bottles.   You can add more juice to taste.  

I find that clear wine bottles make great cordial bottles.

 I also saw some frozen raspberries on sale at the supermarket so made a few jars of jam:

4-5 cups raspberries, washed
3 cups sugar

Put the raspberries in a heavy saucepan and cook gently for 15 minutes, squashing down with a potato masher.  Add sugar and bring to the boil.  Simmer gently then put in a sugar thermometer.  Continue to cook until it reaches 100 degrees, stirring regularly.  Remove from the heat and put into sterilised jars.  Keep it in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


There have been a few sad looking sandwiches coming home in the lunch boxes lately.  I buy the best ham, nice cheese, salad and, here's the clincher, healthy grainy or wholemeal bread.  The kids just don't seem to like them.  I'm sure if I used plastic white bread they would eat them but I believe I have a moral responsibility to make an effort.  So I decided to ditch the sandwiches and try a few other things.  Leftover chicken pieces seem to be hit and same with quiche.

People panic about pastry.  It can be tricky but there a a few simple rules to observe and a whole world of opportunity is opened to you.  A simple quiche makes a perfect lunch dish, and if you can knock up a fruit tart it is practically an instant pudding.

There are millions of pastry recipes out there but you don't really need them.  Simple basic shortcrust pastry (for lining a tart dish or putting at the bottom of a pie) is literally half fat to flour with cold water to bind it.  When I say fat I really mean butter (I buy the salt reduced Tassie butter in foil....apparently the paper wrapped butter is affected by the lights of the dairy cabinets which makes it go rancid).  So you judge the amounts on the size of your quiche tin.  I usually use 150g butter to 300g flour for a 28 cm dish, you may have a bit left over. (Make a few jam tarts for the kids, or some mini lemon curd tarts..).

I always mix the dough in the food processor.   The butter should come straight out of the fridge.  Pastry, unlike bread dough, really does not like to be handled and is best made in a cool environment, whatever you do, don't knead it.  Whizz in the processor until it resembles breadcrumbs:

You then need to add sufficient cold water from the fridge to form a ball.  This will be 2-3 tablespoons for 300g flour.  Add some of the water and whizz.  If it's  not coming together, add a bit more then let it form a ball:

If you put too much water in you can add a little more flour.  Tip the ball onto a square of baking paper and without too much delay fold it up and refrigerate for 30 minutes (longer if you need to, it just might be a bit harder when you go to roll it out).

Now for the fun part, rolling out.  I have a marble slab on my bench for this purpose, but anywhere will do.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on the board and roll out, turning the pastry a quarter turn every few rolls to make sure it's even and not sticking until you have a nice round shape that is bigger than your tin.

Place your rolling pin on the end closest to you and roll the pastry over the pin to lift it up and slide the tin underneath.  Press it into the tin and trim the edges.

Prick a few holes in the pastry with a fork and place the piece of baking paper on top.  Put it in the fridge while the oven is heating up to 180c.  When the oven is warm enough fill the pastry with beans of choice (either special cooking ones or at the moment I have red kidney beans.  I have been known to use small stones).  Cook in the oven for 15 minutes.  Take it out and remove the paper and the beans, and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.  

While that is cooking I usually prepare the filling.  The options of course are endless but for a simple egg and bacon here's what you do:
This will do a 24cm dish.

Fry 2-3 rashers of chopped bacon in a frying pan till nicely cooked, not too crispy.  If you are adding a leek, do so at the end of the bacon cooking and cook until softened.  Set aside, leave in the pan.

In a bowl whisk 4 eggs and a cup of cream.  Grate about 1/2 cup of tasty cheese.  I did not ever say that this was health food.

If you are using a metal quiche dish with a removable base it is advisable to put it on a baking sheet.
Scatter the cheese on first, then the bacon, making sure you scrape all the bits out of the pan.  
Pour over the egg mixture, a bit more grated cheese, then season with salt & pepper and a dusting of nutmeg.  

Place in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden.

The other pastry I use all the time is Maggie Beer's Sour Cream Pastry.  More on that at a later date.