slow-cooked vegetable curry with little lamb meatballs


This one couldn’t be easier (& it helped to slightly reduce our pumpkin supply).

Halve and slice one brown onion & start it cooking gently in a few Tblsp of olive oil. Finely slice & chop a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger & add to the pan along with 4-5 finely sliced cloves of garlic. (We’ve just planted our garlic – 2 & 1/2 of our 2-m long raised beds. Should be a great crop.)  Continue to cook until the onion is softening & turning translucent, then add 2 tsp ground coriander, 2 tsp ground cumin, as much chili as takes your fancy (I used 1/4 tsp) and 1/2 tsp salt). Cook a little longer, stirring, until the mix is fragrant, and then tip it into the bowl of your slow-cooker where you have already placed

1 butternut squash, peeled & de-seeded & cut into 2cm chunks; 3 medium potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks; a couple of red peppers, cut into strips; and a can of drained chickpeas – or, in my case, cannellini beans on account of I didn’t check the label before opening the can. Add 5oo mL of chicken stock, cover, & leave to cook on a low setting for about 5 hours.

At this point I tasted the curry & decided that although it smelled great it needed coconut; with no little cans of coconut milk in the pantry I added a couple of Tblsp of desiccated coconut instead🙂 Plus 3 Tblsp of tomato paste to thicken the mix. Pretty much anything goes in this recipe! (If we hadn’t eaten a lot of spinach the previous night – spinach galettes with tomato passata – I’d have sliced some thinly & added towards the end of the cooking time.)

Stir everything well and then add your meatballs. I used a cup of nice soft fresh breadcrumbs from yesterday’s loaf of beer bread, & added 1 egg, 2 Tblsp of finely chopped fresh mint, 2 tsp of garam masala, 1 Tblsp dark soy sauce & 300g of lamb mince. Mix this together really, really well & shape into small balls about the size of a walnut. They’ll be quite soft. Place them carefully in the curry & leave everything for another hour or so until the meatballs are cooked through.

You could serve with rice but we ate it on its own, with a little chopped fresh coriander sprinkled on top.

beer bread (in which i attempt to emulate the fine cooks at ‘good neighbour’)


We”ve got a new pub in our neighbourhood: “Good Neighbour“, & by George it’s good! We rocked on down there the day after it opened – the place was buzzing, the service & food were great, & I am now a fan of their plum cider! And of the beer bread, which we devoured while waiting for our (equally delicious) mains to arrive.

In fact, I’ve been trying to come up with a similar loaf at home. The first time I made it, the beer was probably too ‘light’ (in colour & flavour, but then I am not a beer connoisseur), so the next time I used a ‘hoppier’ version that gave a lovely flavoursome loaf, slightly sweet & pleasantly chewy without losing softness. In fact, I’ve got another lot rising at the moment, & this time I’ve used the pub’s own sparkling ale, so we’re really looking forward to it coming out of the oven! What follows is the kneaded-by-breadmaker version – if making by hand then make a ‘sponge’ with the yeast, sugar, about a cup of flour & some of the liquid, then add the rest of the flour & the softened butter & knead away.

Into the pan of the breadmaker, measure: 4 tsp ‘surebake’ (red-top) yeast, 2 Tblsp honey or brown sugar, 1 c wholemeal flour, 3 c white flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 50 g softened butter, and 1 & 1/2 c of the beer of your choice. Set the machine to ‘dough’ & leave it to work its magic – you might want to stay within earshot just to check the consistency once it starts kneading, as I’ve found that I’ve needed to add perhaps another 1/8 c warm water to the mix.

Once the machine goes ‘beep’, then shape the dough as you desire. I made buns the first time, but second time round I knocked the dough back, divided it in half & then split each half into three pieces that I rolled into long sausages (about 30 cm long). This gave me 2 plaited rolls, which I put to rise on the baking sheet before baking at 180 C for about 25 minutes. But it would be yummy in loaf tins as well.

a sort of cassoulet


Yesterday, when we did the shopping, there were nice meaty pork bones in the supermarket butchery. So I bought them, along with a packet of 3 chorizo sausages & also the things that were actually on the shopping list. And today I made a sort of cassoulet. It’s based on a recipe in Alison Holst’s collection of crockpot & slow=cooker dishes, but as usual I tweaked it a bit to suit what was in the herb garden & pantry.

You’ll need to start this off in the morning if using a slow cooker as it takes 6-8 hours on ‘low’ to get the meat nice & toothsome & the sauce thick & rich.

First I sliced a couple of brown onions & softened them in olive oil on a medium heat, along with 4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Then I tipped them into the bowl of my trusty slow-cooker, and added a tin of chopped tomatoes in juice, a tin of cannellini beans, 3 Tblsp of tomato paste, the leaves of several sprigs of time, a couple of Tblsp of chopped fresh marjoram, 1/2 tsp salt and a couple of bay leaves, & mixed everything together. (The original recipe calls for sage, but I haven’t had a lot of success with sage. If we enlarge the courtyard garden I’ll try growing it there as it doesn’t seem to like life in pots. Not at our place, anyway.) The chorizos I sliced about 1cm thick before adding them to the dish, and then the pork bones, and mixed again so the meat was well covered in sauce. Then I left it all to its own devices.

After a couple of hours I gave it all a stir. The mix looked a bit dry so I dropped in the half-dozen small tomatoes from the bowl on the bench, added about half a cup of water, & went away again.

A little before dinner time I fished out the pork bones & separated the now meltingly-soft meat from the bones & skin, popping the meat back in the cooker bowl & wrapping the other bits for the rubbish. Check to see if it needs seasoning – ours didn’t as the chorizos were pleasantly spicy – before sprinkling with chopped parsley & serving. Or you could use gremolata. The dish would go well with steamed greens and baked potatoes (or mash), but we had it with slices of beer bread (the recipe for which I will provide shortly🙂 ).

It might not have been authentic, but it was certainly tasty.

beef cheeks (& even the doubter liked them)


Well, this has been a rather occasional diary lately, hasn’t it? It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, but rather than I’ve had so much else on my (metaphorical) plate that this blog slipped to the back. But anyway, here we are again🙂

A few days ago I called into a new butcher’s shop on the way home (‘new’ in the sense of  ‘new to me’; they’ve been there fora while but I’ve never stopped before). Into my basket went lamb sausages, a couple of nice bones for the dog, and 6 beef cheeks. I’d not cooked this particular cut before I thought I’d experiment.

So yesterday morning I turned on the slow cooker & got to work. First up, & sliced & gently fried 2 medium-sized brown onions in a bit of olive oil – I know most slow cooker recipes say to just put them in the pot, but I’ve found the flavours are better if the onions are at least partly-cooked before they go in there. Dunno why. After about 5 minutes I added 6 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced, and gave them all another 5 minutes in the pan.

At about the same time I put a cup of dried mushrooms – several different kinds – into a bowl & covered them with boiling water.

The onions & garlic went into the bottom of the slow cooker dish. I put a bit more oil into my frying pan, coated the beef cheeks in cornmeal, and browned each in turn before arranging them on top of the onions. A couple of largish carrots, peeled & diced, joined the meat, & I tucked 3 bay leaves in among them. (One of the things I love about our current house is that all my herbs are in the garden, or in pots, in the courtyard – just a few steps from the kitchen.)

Then I opened a bottle of pinot noir & used a cup of that to deglaze the pan. (My brother – the one that does a lot of cooking – would say that at this point I should have made personal inroads on the remaining wine, but I’ll confess to not particularly liking reds.) I added the leaves from several sprigs of thyme, 500 mL of beef stock, the rehydrated mushrooms (having cut the big ones into smaller pieces), and some of the water from the mushrooms, & brought all that to the simmer before pouring it over the meat & veges in the slow cooker. And left it all to cook on ‘low’ for 8 hours – I turned the meat occasionally but it could have been left entirely to its own devices. By the end of that time it smelled divine & the sauce/gravy was delicious😀

We’d invited friends to dinner (one of whom loves beef cheeks, but the other was decidedly suspicious). To accompany the casserole, we had beans (frozen in the summer when we had a distinct surplus), roast butternut pumpkin (also from the garden) & baked potatoes, based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe I saw on TV recently.

For this, I used 3 large Agria spuds – they are yellow & floury & wonderful when baked. They needed an hour at 180 C. About 15 minutes before the potatoes were done, I finely shredded 1/4 of a drumhead cabbage and cooked it gently in a little butter until it was tender. Then I cut each spud in half lengthways & carefully scooped out the flesh into a bowl, arranging the skins in a baking dish. I mashed the flesh with a little butter & a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, seasoned it with salt & ground black pepper, and then mixed in the cabbage. And then mixed in about 75g of crumbled blue vein cheese – it really lifted the dish out of the ordinary – before popping back in the oven to heat through.

That was such a nice meal – & I think the doubter is converted.

zucchini timbales & tomato coulis


Last night we had some good friends to dinner. The main course was garlic & sweet chilli prawns, but on casting about for an entrée I decided on this zucchini dish. Mainly because we have zucchinis in the garden, & with this vegetable it seems you have either a glut or a famine. I’ve had the recipe for years but haven’t made it a lot in recent times; it’s from an old edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly microwave cookbook (we’re talking the 1980s here😀 ).

The timbales: first, puree 8 small zucchini in a blender – you could equally well grate them; I’ve done it both ways & both work just fine. Cook the result in the microwave on ‘high’ for 5 minutes & then squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can.

Put the squeezed veges in a bowl & mix in a 250g tub of sour cream (‘lite’, if you insist, a pinch of salt, as much chopped basil as you like (the recipe says 2 Tblsp but I like more than that), 2 Tblsp grated parmesan, & 4 eggs.

Divide the mix between 6 1/2 c moulds (I love my silicone ones; if you are using another kind remember to grease them well) & cook in the microwave for around 7 minutes on med-high – check occasionally. You want them firm in the middle. (They could also be done standing in a dish of water in a moderate oven.)

The coulis: peel & chop 4 medium tomatoes & put in a bowl with a clove or more (I used more as garlic is something we also have a lot of & we all like it) & 2-3 Tblsp tomato paste. Cover & cook on high for 3-4 minutes, then blend to a puree.

Unmould the timbales onto serving plates & serve with some of the tomato sauce on the side. This is a lovely, light, summery entrée🙂

a tasty mushroom salad


This is a recipe that has undoubtedly morphed over time, not least because I loaned someone the original recipe book & they Never Gave It Back😦 I have fond memories of that book, too: it was Salad Days, a companion volume to the wonderful Use Your Loaf by Ursel & Derek Norman, which I still use a lot. (I can’t believe the price for a new hardcover edition on Amazon, though!)

Back to the salad – it’s a ridiculously easy recipe and very very tasty. I’ve found that often when you see mushroom salads on a buffet table, they’re the cooked variety, where the toothsome little fungi have been heated in a dressing of some sort. Personally I don’t think you should ever go there. Instead:

  • halve your mushrooms, if they are the little button sort, or slice them (about 5mm thick) if not, & place in a bowl.
  • shake together a pinch of salt, some good olive oil and some vinegar in a 2:1 ratio, until nicely emulsified. You don’t want too much – the mushrooms will soak it up to begin with, but then release a bit of liquid later, so you don’t want to drench them at the start. From memory the original recipe used a white wine vinegar but these days I use balsamic – I find the flavour complements the earthiness of the mushrooms beautifully.
  • pour the dressing over your mushrooms, add a sprinkling of fresh herbs (lemon thyme is good) , & set aside for an hour or two, stirring occasionally so all the mushrooms end up coated with dressing. They’ll soften, darken, & taste delicious.
  • serve & enjoy🙂

macaroni cheese – but not as we knew it


Last night we spent a happy few hours having dinner – & watching youtube videos🙂 – with friends. We were to have watched Cold Comfort Farm but when the time came it turned out someone else had borrowed it😦 However, our friends had decided that in keeping with the film’s title, we’d have comfort food for dinner, & so we did. Macaroni cheese, in fact, but with a decided tweak to the recipe.

On enquiring, we found that along with the lovely creamy cheese sauce, there came… finely diced dried apricots and, ditto, gherkins. And some home-grown chili pepper. Yes, really, and it was very nice indeed, popped under the grill with sliced tomatoes on top and served with lashings of finely-grated parmesan. Everyone agreed that this recipe was a keeper.

And along with it we had a new take on broccoli – smallish florets blanched, tossed with olive oil, a little flaked chili, and lots of minced garlic, and then finished off under the grill. Very very tasty, and another recipe to add to the list of things to try at home.

And next time it’s our turn to visit, Cold Comfort Farm will be there ready🙂