Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas tortilla

This afternoon was Christmas with family and friends in Edinburgh Gardens. Despite a week of wet, solid rain (which we love to have in a drought), today was a beautiful day. And didn't everyone make the most of it in Edinburgh Gardens? There were weddings and so many groups of people coming and going all day: eating, drinking, children and dogs playing, talking, reading the paper. There were so many groups: we were all part of a community, and yet all private and separate. How lucky am I to have this as my local park!

At this event we always take food. I had been asked to bring spanakopitta, but didn't fancy running down the street with a baking tray of hot spanakopitta in the full knowledge that by the time everyone came it would be cold. So I went back to an old stand-by, Spanish omelette or tortilla, and decided to give it a Christmas edge by adding some red and green pepper to the vegetables. Classic Spanish omelette is just eggs and potato, so the peppers added a Christmas touch.


4 large potatoes
3 cloves garlic
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
8 eggs
Olive oil


Heat enough oil in pan to coat potatoes
Peel and slice thinly the potatoes
Place in pan and toss to cover with oil
Cover pan and cook for about 10 minutes turning every now and again
Crush garlic and add
Seed and slice peppers and add to potatoes
Mix to coat with oil and cook for another few minutes
Meanwhile, quickly beat the eggs in a large bowl
When vegetables are soft, strain and add to eggs
Mix vegetables and eggs
Clean pan and add and heat more oil
When a haze shows on the oil, pour in egg and vegetable mixture
Cook until sides and bottom cooked, shaking regularly to stop sticking
Take pan from fire and cover with a plate
Quickly turn over the plate and pan and leaving the torilla on the plate
Add more oil to pan and heat
When a haze shows, slide the tortilla from the plate into the pan
Cook for a few minutes, shaking regularly
Take pan from the fire and cover with plate
Turn the plate and pan over allowing the tortilla to rest on plate
Serve hot or cold as tapas or main course with salad

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas salad - for Sue Gray

Last Sunday I was having a Christmas lunch at Sue's house. She asked me to bring insalata caprese. Hmm! I was happy to bring a salad but not one that I was going to slice and arrange and travel with. I know the end result of that: all the arranging slides all over the place and a mess ensues. In my view the best food to transport is in a bowl!

So I thought of an alternate insalata caprese that I sometimes do, essentially made with cherry tomatoes (not sliced normal ones) and cherry bocconcini (not the normal sized ones sliced). And as it was Christmas I added a couple of other red and green ingredients. When it came to dressing, I was just going to slosh on some olive oil when I remembered my piri piri oil. So I drizzled a bit of that over. If you don't have piri piri oil to hand just use straight olive oil or add a smidgin of sambal oelek or chopped fresh chili to the oil. But whatever you do, don't drown it either with oil or add vinegar as the great thing about this salad is the fresh, crisp taste.


20 cherry bocconcini
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 Lebanese cucumbers
1 red pepper
Piri piri oil


Drain the bocconcini and slice in half before adding to serving bowl
Slice the cherry tomatoes and add to bowl
Slice Lebanese cucumbers in half lengh-wise and them chop into chunks before adding to bowl
Seed and roughly chop red pepper and add to bowl
Detach basil leaves from stalks and tear up roughly while adding to vegetable and cheese mixture
Drizzle a small amount of piri piri oil over top
Toss and serve for a colourful Christmassy salad.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Soutzoukakia - yum!

I reckon I must be getting over the dreadful flu and bronchitis I had in August but it has certainly taken time. Why do I think that? Well, twice this weekend I have felt like cooking and blogging about it and I have also been excited by reading a big backlog of blogs, including many food ones. I am delighted that my Bloglines is now down to under 2000! It has been hovering around 4ooo since I went to Alice Springs a few weeks ago but there was a flu-caused backlog before. So today I have been enjoying everyone's posts.

One of the blogs I was looking at today was Kalofagas - Greek food and beyond by Peter Minakis by a Canadian-Greek food blogger from Toronto. As usual he had lots of mouth-watering Greek recipes and there was a special added touch as he had been in Greece over the northern summer. I always enjoy Peter's posts and can't wait for plum season here to test his plum tarte tatin. But today it was his post on soutzoukakia that was a trigger for me. I had some leftover rice and was thinking about making piperies gemistes and had even got peppers from Mecca Bros yesterday. But when I saw his post I changed my mind.

Now Peter didn't use rice in his soutzoukakia and I don't know where I have come across soutzoukakia with rice, but I have! So this is what I did with the rice. Thanks for the inspiration, Peter, even though my recipe isn't anything like yours. I also added some piri piri oil to the mix as it was around from my Portuguese experiment a while ago. I think that this is pretty typical of Australian cooking. We are a multicultural community and our cooking reflects that: we have different cooking elements and simply combine them to see what they will be like. That's certainly how I cook much to the annoyance of purist friends who can't deal with pasta served with Asian sauces. Yeah right you should only serve pasta with classic Italian sauces? Not in my house, you don't!


500 gr. minced beef
1.5 cups cooked rice
2 eggs lightly beaten
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 dessertspoon ground cummin
Red wine
Piri piri oil
Olive oil
Tomato sauce already prepared


Have already prepared tomato sauce simmering in a large pan
Place the minced beef, rice, eggs, garlic, cumin, pepper in a bowl
Add a couple of dashes of piri piri oil
Add a few splashes of red wine
Roll up your sleeves and ensure that the ingredients are mixed
Form into soutzoukakia shapes
Roll in flour
In a pan heat olive oil
Fry meatballs until sealed on all sides
Add additional olive oil as needed during the process
As cooked, remove from pan and add to pan with tomato sauce
When finished, add additional water to pan to ensure meatballs are covered
When cooking of meatballs completed, sear the frying pan with red wine and add this mixture to the pan with tomato sauce and meatballs
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more
Alternately, place in an ovenproof tray and cook in moderate oven for 45 minutes.

Then enjoy with potatoes, or in my case with cauliflower cheese from yesterday, or a green salad.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cauliflower cheese: comfort food for Grand Final night!

I was always planning to cook cauliflower cheese tonight as it is the season for cauliflower. But as it also turns out, tonight is a great night for comfort food as in Melbourne it is Grand Final night and my football team was supposed to cap off a wonderful season by winning back to back premierships. Not to be alas!

Fortunately I am only a very luke-warm supporter of football and so I am not weeping and gnashing my teeth in the anguish of loss. The other team which won is the local team, Hawthorn, which started out life just down the road from where I work. In fact, despite the fact that the Hawthorn team no longer operates out of Glenferrie Oval, its original home, it is telling that today that was where fans gathered. History does tell.

But to cauliflower cheese. At cauliflower season, cauliflower cheese is a favourite of mine, whether I cook it to serve as an accompaniment to a main, or to eat by itself. I usually use the whole cauliflower including any greenery and sometimes do a variant with cauliflower and broccoli which my nephew likes (and so do I). I also vary the cheese I use. Tonight I didn't include the greenery from the cauliflower as it was a bit seedy looking and I didn't include broccoli as I thought both wouldn't fit in the dish. I used a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese IN the sauce, and shaved Parmesan on top. And for a touch of piquancy I added capers to the cauliflower when it was cooking.


1 cauliflower, broken into flowerlets
1 dessertspoon capers
600 ml milk
2 heaped tablespoon butter/margerine
2 heaped tablespoon flour
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar & mozzarella)
Grated parmesan


Preheat oven to 160 c.
Break cauliflower in to flowerlets
Place cauliflower and capers in pan with small amount of water and cook until tender
Meanwhile make a bechamel sauce with flour, butter, pepper and milk
As sauce is beginning to thicken add cup of grated cheese
Continue to stir until combined and thick
Drain the cauliflower and caper mixture and place in an oven-proof dish
Pour the cheese sauce over and level
Sprinkle shaved parmesan over
Bake in the middle of a moderate oven for 45 minutes
Serve as an accompaniment to a main course, or by itself with salad.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lovely food clouds!

Michelle over at Connecting Librarian has been posting about which creates lovely clouds from words. And now it can do whole blogs! I thought I would give it a whirl for a couple of my blogs and see what words I obsess about.

This blog, the Librarian and the Kitchen, came out thus:

I wasn't very surprised at the main words: they reflect the foods I like best and the food I like.

This was fun to do. You can change the colours and layout. I did find trying to load them into the blog a bit frustrating. You had to save to the Gallery to get the code and then it pasted strangely so that you had to edit it to get the HTML to work. But it was an interesting exercise. Try it for your food blog. You might be surprised by the words you concentrate on - or not!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Spicy vegetables

The other night I cooked up a tray of meat lasagne (another product of the pantry cleaning) and I was wondering about vegetables. I had potatoes and pumpkin on hand and a few other staples. So I remembered an old standby. I am sure that the recipe originated with one for peas in an old Indian cookbook but I have made it so often and with so many variations that I am not sure it bears any relation to the original. Maybe just the peas and onion and turmeric? It might be interesting to pull out the recipe and see if there are any remaining similarities.

Anyway, here's my Spicy vegetables. Again, I don't have quantities or times. Just do as much as you need for the number of people and cook it until it is cooked.

Spicy Vegetables


Mustard seed
Cumin seed
Frozen baby peas


Peel and slice the onion.
Cut the potatoes roughly into quarters, depending on the size of the potatoes.
Deseed the pumpkin and cut the pumpkin into manageable portions.
You can peel both the potates and pumpkin if you prefer but I don't usually.
Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to contain all the vegetables
Add the onion and stir until softened.
Add mustard seed and stir.
Add other spices.
Add potatoes and pumpkin and stir so that coated in onion/spice mixture
Cook for a few minutes while stirring.
Add frozen baby peas and mix.
Add water and simmer until pumpkin and potatoes are tender and the flavours absorbed.

Note that I am taking the opportunity to take a photo using the nifty little yellow silicone trivet that Neville and Wayan gave me for my birthday. It's a great little tool.

Piperies Gemistes - again

With the rest of the rice, tomato and dill mixture I filled and cooked a couple more red peppers. This time rather than adding fetta I added a handful of raisins to the mixture. The reason was simply that I was engaged in cleaning out the pantry and found a container with that number of raisins in it and I wanted to use them ;>).

These peppers were also delicious, but a lot sweeter. I think that I could probably have done with fewer raisins as raisins are very sweet and plump up a lot. However, I enjoyed these as well as the previous batch. I'll be cooking piperies now that they are on my radar again. Maybe I'll try stuffing with couscous next time?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Piperies Gemistes

A few days ago I posted about the need to think of something to do with leftover rice. Sounds like I am trying to be the Leftover Queen! I'm not aspiring to be there: we all cook with leftovers ;>). But I did need to do something with my leftover rice and I am finally blogging about what I did. And it was gemistes piperies. In fact, it was only just piperies in the plural as I only had one red and one green in the fridge. I ended up with more rice mixture so I have frozen that for more peppers or tomatoes, or just for eating by itself as it is yummy.

With my already cooked rice, I added tomato sauce (I used ready made Bertolli tomato sauce from a jar but feel free to make your own), lots of chopped dill, and some crumbled fetta, Dodoni of course. The rice is delicious and the baked peppers are too!

I don't have any proper measures but these are the ingredients and mode.

Piperies gemistes

Cooked rice
Red and green peppers
Chopped dill
Tomato sauce

Place cooked rice in pan and heat with tomato sauce to taste.
Add chopped dill and simmer.
Prepare peppers by slicing around top to make cap with stalk.
Remove seeds.
Add crumbled fetta to rice mixture.
Fill peppers with fetta and rice mixture.
Replace caps on peppers.
Place peppers in casserole with a little water.
Cover and cook in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and cook for 30-40 minutes or until cooked.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another day, another bowl of cauliflower soup

It's MIFF time here in cold Melbourne and a good bowl of soup after hours in the dark is a great thing. Last night I had a great big bowl of cauliflower soup with a difference. I added a few chunks of fetta and some freshly ground pepper as a garnish. The pepper added a hit to the soup and the melting fetta was delicious and quite different from the normal Parmesan touch.

As is perhaps inevitable with our population, Melbourne has access to a mountain of different types of fetta - some local and ordinary, some local and gourmet, some full-fat, some low-fat, some Bulgarian, and some Greek. I guess they all have their place in the scheme of cheese making but the fetta I always have on hand is the my old favourite, Dodoni.

I don't know if it really has anything to do with the oracle of Zeus at Dodona near Dodoni in Epirus but the name for me evokes memories of visiting Dodoni one summer and the Greek family who took me into their house on the mountainside for a visit. They thought I was mad wanting to visit archaeological sites and read guidebooks there. But there you are. Greek oracles are long ago in my past but the Dodoni fetta is very much of my present. It is a proionta of Epirus even if not of Dodoni and I get quite anxious when I don't have stocks on hand ;>)

And the highlight of yesterday? Courtney Hunt's Frozen river, which was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance. See it if you get the opportunity. It's not oracular or Epirote but a great film set on the US/Canadian border and about poverty and a hand to mouth existence not dissimilar in some ways to the old Greek subsistence but in other ways very dissimilar.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A pot of cauliflower soup

During the winter I like to have a pot of soup on the go and I like to use seasonal produce for the soup. A few weeks ago I went back to an old favourite, Two in the Kitchen's Pumpkin soup. Last weekend as cauliflowers were plentiful, I bought a cauliflower to make soup. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on which way you look at it), the cauliflower got eaten before it became soup. Cauliflowers are, of course, still plentiful. So yesterday I purchased another and made soup before the cauliflower could be eaten.

This is a pretty simple soup: just butter/margerine, onion, cauliflower, stock and a few additions like ginger, garlic and coriander. As I have been longing to try my piri piri oil, I flung in a dash of that too, though the difference was not at all noticeable. Maybe I need to leave it sit for a bit longer, or it is not as strong as I expected.

Cauliflower soup

1 tablespoon butter or margerine
1 onion
1 whole cauliflower
2 teaspoons crushed ginger
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 dessertspoon chopped coriander
1 teaspoon piri piri oil
1 litre chicken stock
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Break up cauliflower roughly into flowerlets.
Chop the cauliflower stalk and any leaves.
Chop onion roughly.
Melt the butter/margerine in a stockpot.
Add onion and stir until soft.
Add cauliflower - all parts of it - and stir with butter and onion.
Leave to cook for a few minutes.
Add the chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer).
Add ginger, garlic, coriander and piri piri oil.
Bring to the boil and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are tender.
Puree the soup.
Serve with some shaved Parmesan to garnish.

You could also reserve some chopped coriander for garnish. If you prefer a creamier soup, add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yoghurt when serving. So, here we can have an almost pointless meal - or it would have been if I hadn't eaten it with toast and butter ;>(

Now I need to think what to do with a whole lot of leftover rice from the butter chicken curry I made during the week. Piperies gemistes?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lebanese "raita"

During the week, we had our regular BC Geek Dinner. We tend to alternate between going out and bringing food to someone's house. This time we were going to Caroline's house and I said I would bring salad, not knowing what Caroline was cooking for main course. When she said she was cooking lamb curry and dhal, I started thinking about cucumber and yoghurt. I was particularly thinking about a delicious recipe with sour cream and yoghurt that my friend Karen cooks but unfortunately didn't get the recipe in time.

I looked at some Indian books, but finally lighted upon a cucumber salad in Abla Amad's The Lebanese kitchen and made that. It wasn't Indian but people treated it as such and were saying "Pass the raita" even though I had stressed the Lebanese nature of the dish. But hey! Brunswick is multicultural and our meal was too. The mint and yoghurt and cucumber was a delicious counterfoil to Caroline's curry and also to the butter chicken I made last night and ate with the leftover "raita".

The recipe is basically Abla's but I didn't add any water (she includes 2 tablespoons) and I used 500 ml yoghurt, whereas she uses 800 ml. All of this meant that my consistency was probably thicker than hers was intended to be but it was right for what I wanted.

Cucumber salad (aka Lebanese raita) after Abla


4 medium-sized Lebanese cucumbers
2 gloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
500 ml natural yoghurt

Peel cucumbers, then cut into quarters lengthwise and slice.
Finely crush garlic in a bowl with salt.
Add cucumber, dried mint, fresh mint and yoghurt and mix.
Add water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two in the Kitchen's Pumpkin Soup

One of my favourite cookery books from the 1980s (and only just as it was published in 1981) is Rita Erlich and Dennis Pryor, Two in the kitchen: recipes for four hands published by Penguin, 1981. I have never cooked their recipes with four hands but let me tell you that that doesn't matter and a lot of them are very good and easy to make with two hands!

With my ongoing saga about pureeing soup (there have been more adventures in between now and my last post about it), I was keen to cook soup today as a friend was coming to lunch. So off I hopped to my battered and food-stained copy of Two in the kitchen for the Pumpkin soup recipe which is an old faithful stand-by. I change the Erlich Pryor recipe slightly by not adding salt and sugar and by adding ground cummin in addition to the nutmeg, but essentially it is their recipe. I also don't specify below what are the tasks for the first and second cooks as I do it as a stand-alone cook!

1 kg butternut pumpkin (seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 onion
1 potato
4 cloves garlic
60 gr butter
1500 ml chicken stock or stock and water
sour cream
ground cummin

Peel the pumpkin, remove seeds, chop into large cubes.
Peel the potato and quarter.
Put the stock on to heat in a saucepan.
Peel the onion, slice finely and gently soften in the butter in a 3 litre saucepan.
Peel the garlic cloves.
Add the garlic and vegetables to the onion and butter and stir until the vegetables are glistening.
After about 5 minutes, add the hot stock.
Season with pepper, nutmeg, cummin and bayleaf.
Cover the saucepan and simmer until the vegetables are very tender.
Remove the bayleaf and puree the soup.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives.

We had a yummy lunch with the pumpkin soup and Philippa's bread, followed by a couple of King Island cheeses served with Marg's Spiced oranges from Stephanie. I continued the tradition and gave Karen some of MY Spiced oranges from Stephanie to take home. She will now cook some and pass them on and who knows where this will end.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Prosciutto and ricotta tartlets

I was wondering what to cook to take to a friend's house when I remembered that a couple of weeks ago my friend Penny told me she had made my prosciutto tartlets. Duh! I had a complete chemobrain episode for a few minutes until I remembered what she was talking about. It had been so long since I had made them - and I often have made them with phyllo cases for vegetarians. I have no idea where I got the idea for either of these as it's so long ago that I started cooking them.

So there was the answer: prosciutto and ricotta tartlets. Most of the ingredients were easy. Yes, Piedimonte's, of course. However, they let me down on the dill front and I had to do an extra trip to Queens Parade to the great greengrocer's where, of course, they had dill. I am glad to have some on hand as now I can make some lentil soup with it as well.

Prosciutto and ricotta tartlets

375 gr ricotta
1 egg
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan
1/2 cup dill roughly chopped
18 slices prosciutto (roughly 200 gr)
9 cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c.
Mix together the ricotta, dill, parmesan and egg.
Take one slice of prosciutto and cut in half horizontally.
Place one half in a small muffin tin compartment, and add the other half crossways.
Repeat for all of the compartments.
Place a heaped dessertspoon of the ricotta mixture in each prosciutto case.
Slice the cherry tomatoes into quarters
Place two quarters on the top of each tartlet.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly before serving.

This quantity makes about 18 tartlets in the baking trays I was using, but will make more or less depending on your trays and how much filling you put in the cases. They will disappear in minutes so that you wonder about the effort ;>)

Death of the pea and ham soup

Last weekend I was very glad to have picked up some bacon bones from the deli and confidently set out to make a pot of pea and ham soup. In fact, at the end of Sunday I self-confidently stated on Twitter that one of my achievements for the weekend was a pot of pea and ham soup. Well, so I thought.

I had great fun on Sunday looking at various recipes for pea and ham soup from Stephanie to Margaret Fulton. But what I ultimately cooked depended really on what I had bought with the soup in mind (pre recipe perusing) and what else I had in the house. All went well and it simmered away on Sunday night.

On Monday I came home from work excited by the prospect of a bowl of thick soup. Before that I needed to put the final touches to it with my trusty Sunbeam maestro. Alas! The trusty Sunbeam maestro was no longer trusty. It was dead. Well, it truly owed me nothing as I had had it for 20 years or so. The soup - well, I pulled out a sieve and then discovered the soup needed more cooking. I ate something else and days passed and the soup ended up in the compost.

This morning I was very excited to purchase for all of A$79 (it was on special) a Sunbeam Stickmaster Pro which is a stickmixer, a whisk and a chopper. So I can now aerate, puree, crush ice, emulsify, mince, chop, dice, make bread crumbs, and whisk. All the components except the actual motor part can be put in the dishwasher, a big improvement on the poor old dead maestro. I plan to have lots of fun with this new toy. I will even be able to make soup again.

Alas, poor maestro, we have had good times but you are soon going to your rest in the garbage bin. You have been replaced by a younger, sleeker model.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spinach and ricotta gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce

I love cooking and spend a lot of my time experimenting with recipes or trying other people's recipes. However, I also work long hours and like to have quick, good food that I can prepare quickly.

In North Fitzroy and North Carlton we are very lucky to have Maria's pasta in Nicholson Street. Maria has a range of fresh and snap frozen pasta which is just wonderful. I always try to have some of it in my freezer, and, apart from purchasing it at Maria's, I can also get it at my local supermarket, Piedimonte's.

Tonight, as I was feeling a bit challenged by getting late to the making of a pot of pea and ham soup, I was happy to pull out some of Maria's ricotta and spinach gnocchi and cook it with Bertolli Five Brothers Summer tomato basil pasta sauce. The gnocchi served with the sauce and some shaved parmesan was better than I could ever do, let's face it.

I have no connection with either of these products except that I find them delicious products which are great to have on hand for preparing a quick meal.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stephanie's spiced oranges - my reprise

I got quite over-excited about Stephanie's spiced oranges and went out to buy the ingredients yesterday. Today I followed the recipe using eight oranges. I used Stephanie's recipe except, yes there is always at least one except ;>). Well except that I used raw sugar not white sugar. I know that she doesn't specify but I always assume white sugar unless otherwise specified. And except that I misread the recipe and put the cardamon pods in whole, not the seeds thereof.

The eight oranges filled three jars, but I still had a lot of syrup left. So I started off again with another eight oranges.

With the syrup I topped it up with a bit more golden syrup and some more cloves and black peppercorns. I followed the recipe for cooking the oranges in water, cooling, and slicing and then added them to the syrup and simmered for 30 minutes or so.

The oranges are now cooling before I put them away up high to be preserved for summer months. Meanwhile I can enjoy Marg's spiced oranges. Maybe she is making some more in Canberra today?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stephanie's spiced oranges and other Canberra goodies

Yes, I know you are all saying: what has Stephanie Alexander to do with Canberra? She's a Hawthorn woman. And you are both right and wrong. This week I was in Canberra for the funeral of my cousin who died of @#$% breast cancer. One of the pleasures of being there was that I stayed with my friends Marg and Tony, and Marg sent me away with her produce.

Marg has a prolific orange tree and last winter she made a vat of Stephanie's spiced oranges. We had some with cheese on Tuesday night - luscious. They highly recommended it with cold meats as well. I have Marg's bottle to eat immediately but I decided that I needed to lay in stock for myself. So as navel oranges are in abundance at present, I have bought a batch and all the other ingredients and will be making my own vat tomorrow. This is Stephanie's recipe and the photographs are mine but of Margaret's spiced oranges.


8 oranges (preferably pipless navels), washed
1 teaspoon salt

1 kg sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1.5 cups white wine vinegar
seeds from six cardamon pods
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 stick cinnamon

Put oranges in large non-reactive pot, then cover generously with cold water and add salt.
Settle a plate down over oranges to keep them under the water.
Bring to simmering point, then simmer for about 50 minutes until the oranges are tender.
Lift gently into a colander and drain.
Discard water in pot.
When oranges are cool enough to handle, halve them using a serrated knife and cut each half into 4-5 wedges (do not peel).
To make the syrup combine all ingredients and heat to simmering point in a non-reactive saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat.
Put orange wedges into syrup and and return to a moderate heat with pan resting on a simmer mat.
Simmer for about 30 minutes until orange is tender and skin can be pierced easily with a fine skewer.
Using tongs fill sterilized jars with orange pieces, then ladle in syrup to cover.
Seal and leave for as long as possible before eating (at least a month).
The fruit will darken over time.

How lucky am I? I can cook my oranges tomorrow and, while mine are steeping in the syrup, I can eat Marg's 2007 oranges! Thanks, Marg!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lebanese lamb and pinenut phyllo pie - with sumac!

Recently I cooked Abla's meat and pine-nut pastries with a variant. I didn't have sumac so I used lemon and lime juice and zest instead and upped the other spices. Since then I have managed to source both sumac and pomegranate molasses. So tonight I used Abla's recipe to make a Lebanese lamb and pinenut phyllo pie according to her directions. Well, it is Abla's in terms of the ingredients, but she doesn't use it to make a pie but rather lady fingers.


1/2 cup pinenuts
2 tablespoon olive oil
500 gr minced lamb
2 onions chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sumac
7 sheets phyllo pastry
Oil for basting phyllo
Poppy seeds
Pomegranate molasses


Preheat oven to 180c, 160 c if fan-forced.
In a pan, cook pine nuts in olive oil until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper.
Place lamb mince in pan and heat gently allowing it to cook in its own juices while stirring constantly.
Add onion and spices.
When onion turns transparent, add pine nuts and remove from heat.
Place phyllo on tea-towel to work from, and add sheets to pan, basting with olive oil as you go.
Add approximately six sheets to the pan.
Pour in filling.
Fold over phyllo, basting with oil.
Add top sheet of phyllo to beautify and baste with olive oil.
Sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
Cut into required pieces through upper layer, taking care not to cut right through the pie.
Cook in the middle of a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.
Cut through phyllo and serve individual piece with dash of pomegranate molasses.

For vegetables to serve with this I made a dish with potatoes and peas with Lebanese spices.


2 potatoes chopped roughly
2 handfuls frozen baby peas
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Olive oil

Mix potatoes and spices in a bowl.
Cook potatoes and spices at high in microwave for 3 minutes. Meanwhile add olive oil to a pan and heat.
Add potatoes to oil and toss continuously until coated with spices and cooked.
Add peas and toss again until cooked.

The lamb and pinenut phyllo pie was again delicious. This time it tasted more like the real Lebanese thing, but I will make the one with lemon and lime again. Although not authentic, that variant was very nice indeed. It would be interesting to try another variation using lentils instead of lamb. The flavours would be different but it should work.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chilli prawn wontons

I wasn't thinking of cooking something new this weekend. I still had umpteen limes and was keen to do a few extra batches of lime curd and indeed I did complete this aim. However, when I was shopping today I came across wonton wrappers and was tempted. Could I whip out a few prawns from my dinner and make them wontons? Could I also do wontons tomorrow with a pasta sauce I was going to make?

Well, of course, the upshot of this speculation was buying the wonton wrappers and experimenting with chilli prawn wontons. I had never made wontons before so this was getting out of the comfort zone. The first thing I did was to Google wontons and come up with a good page on about making wontons. This page had its source in Australian Good Taste, September 2004 p. 53. I found a couple of other instructions and played around a bit as well.

Essentially, I started cooking my sauce for Chilli prawns with pasta which I have blogged about before. Then I took a small bowl of water and a pastry brush, pulled out a wonton wrapper, placed a prawn in the middle and followed the instructions on as well as playing around with a couple of other variants. I then steamed them for 10 minutes and ate them up with a chilli sauce for dipping. Yummy! I could have popped them in a soup or deep-fried them and served with the chilli dipping sauce. I will continue to experiment with these. They are easy and yummy.

The learnings were: wontons are very simple to make; whole prawns are perhaps a wee bit big for them but it did work ok; and when steaming make sure that the individual pieces are placed separately or it will not be possible to separate after cooking!

TasteSpotting is dead. Long live TasteSpotting clones!

As we all mourn the passing of TasteSpotting and hope that the ending will be temporary, already several clones of it have appeared. Recipes2Share was the first one I heard about on the Leftover Queen Forum, and then today I discovered Food Gawker. which describes itself as: "This is our homage to Tastespotting. We hope you return, but until then we built a clone to satisfy people’s need to gawk at food porn."

I have registered with both and subscribed to both through my Bloglines. So I guess we'll just see what evolves. At first sight, I prefer Food Gawker because of its cleaner lines and because it's just a collection of food photos linked to websites rather than being part of something else. And let's face it, because it reminds me of TasteSpotting.

All we know about the closing of TasteSpotting is what is on the note on site. Questions on the TasteSpotting Facebook site haven't elicited answers and really this is not unexpected if there is a legal case sub iudice or pending. Much of the discussion has been around the issue of copyright of images, though others have said it is another legal matter. The very cloning of this site by several others makes me wonder about copyright - not of images, but of the whole NotCot concept. Any comments?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Piedimonte's Redeemed!

Well, it's another day and another weekend and I've slipped off to Piedimonte's for more ingredients (and the obligatory cat food). And what have I found? I suddenly remembered another herb and spice section at Piedimonte's, not the normal one but a more specialized one near the vegetables. And lo! I am the proud owner of 80 grams of premium grade Sumac from Turkey! They had it all the time.

Now I can try the Lebanese Lamb Pie in Phyllo with sumac instead of lemon and lime juice and zest. However, I am actually glad that I didn't find the sumac last weekend as the lemon and lime added a lovely tangy flavour to the pie. Now I just need to go in search of pomegranate molasses - and I have been given a lead for that ;>)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tastespotting gone? Wah!

Wah! What has happened to Tastespotting? Why does it suddenly not exist? We just see a statement like this on the website:

I love Tastespotting and find so many good links from it. Does anyone know the reasons behind this? I've only known about this since 18 April and I've addicted since I first was told about it. Thanks, Sandy! What will I do now?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Lebanese Lamb and Pinenut Phyllo Pie

I have been having a bit of a burst of Lebanese food in the last week with dinners at Zum zum in North Carlton and Rumi in East Brunswick. Not surprisingly I ended up getting out my best Lebanese cookbook, The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad. Abla's Restaurant in Carlton has to be one of my all time favourite restaurants in Melbourne. It's small and in a terrace in Carlton. Abla is always there presiding over her kitchen and welcomes everyone as to her home. It's Lebanese family cooking and I have adored it for years, or is it decades? Abla opened it in 1979 so that looks like decades to me.

At Zum zum, I had had some scrumptious dishes and one of them was a bigger version of ladies fingers, a delectable dish of phyllo filled with lamb, onion and pine-nuts. Normally these are literally finger or cigar size, but at Zum zum they were larger and had dribbled pomegranate molasses on the top (I think). At Rumi we had delicious cigar pastries filled with cheese. I wanted to make something like this!

Abla had a recipe for ladies fingers: she said she made them more here in Melbourne where fresh phyllo is always available than in Lebanon. Fresh phyllo is indeed something I always have. So I was ready to try it. I had most of the ingredients and stocked up on lamb mince at my local treasure house, Piedimonte's. Unfortunately they let me down in the sumac line. I simply couldn't get it. Sumac is a red-coloured spice from the berries of the sumac bush and its flavour adds a sharp fruity taste similar to lemon: the illustration here is from Wikipedia. Pomegranate molasses is also on my shopping list but I found a source for that today from a friend who dropped by! How lucky am I in my friends! Thanks, Pamela!

I will pursue the procurement of this but at present I decided to substitute lemon/lime juice and zest for the sumac and increase the other spices. We'll see how it goes! I also decided that, rather than doing umpteen ladies fingers, I would use the filling to make a phyllo pie which would be a main course rather than mezza.

Lebanese Lamb & Pine-nut Phyllo Pie (after Abla Amad, Abla's kitchen)

450 gr. lamb mince
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon cummin seeds
1 teaspoon allspice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Juice of half a lemon
Teaspoon lemon zest finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
7-8 sheets phyllo pastry
Sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 180c, 160 c if fan-forced.
In a pan, cook pine nuts in olive oil until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper.
Place lamb mince in pan and heat gently allowing it to cook in its own juices while stirring constantly.
Add onion, spices, lemon and lime zest and juice.
When onion turns transparent, add pine nuts and remove from heat.
Place phyllo on tea-towel to work from, and add sheets to pan, basting with olive oil as you go.
Add approximately six sheets to the pan.
Pour in filling.
Fold over phyllo, basting with oil.
Add top sheet of phyllo to beautify and baste with olive oil.
Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Cut into required pieces through upper layer, taking care not to cut right through the pie.
Cook in the middle of a moderate oven for about 45 minutes.
Serve with vegetables or salad for a main course.
Well, all I can say is that it's just yummy! The combination of the crisp phyllo and the lamb inside is just delicious! I have found it delicious in ladies' fingers but it is great in a pie too. I really like the taste of the lemon/lime too! Once I get some sumac I'll try it that way, but at present I am very happy with the outcome.


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