A fishy feed

Back to the reality of home where nobody gets up early to provide a buffet breakfast and you can’t slip out down the street for a quick and cheap feed. Five weeks in Vietnam has certainly changed my mind on fresh food. Their system is great. Anyway, I had some Red Cod to eat and cooked up a Mediterranean style dish on the trusty wood stove.

Start off by frying onion. As I love my onions, I used 2, but 1 would be more sensible. The onion was just sliced up and cooked till the rings separated.

DSC01016Then the chopped up fish (any firm fleshed fish will do) and a diced capsicum. Fry for a couple of minutes just to start the fish cooking.

DSC01017Then add some tomatoes (as it’s winter, I used a can of  tomatoes) and stock to cover. Some black olives will also go well. Then it’s time to serve. I served it in a bowl with some Cous Cous, but you could use noodles or rice or whatever. That’s the joy of being multi-cultural. A bit of grated cheese on top for me and of course a nice glass of Shiraz to go with it. White wine with fish is so sixties so if you want a red, go for it.




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When good tomatoes turn bad

Don’t know about your part of the world, but the weather is crazy here. We don’t refrigerate our tomatoes, the climate is usually perfect for them to just slowly ripen. But this year we’ve had sudden bursts of really hot weather and the tomatoes have ripened a bit too quickly. But while they are too ripe to just eat, they are fine to make sauce. But first, I need something to put the sauce on. So it’s roast vege time.

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Yep, my personal favourite – sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, spuds and onions (the onions will go into the sauce). Meanwhile, those over ripe Capsicum can go under the grill until they are black. If you happen to have a deep fryer, you can just drop them into hot oil for a few seconds – much quicker and cleaner. After they are black, put them in a covered box or paper bag so they can steam for a minute or two, then the skins will come straight off. (I’m not allowed to have a deep fryer – would probably burn the house down)

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With the onions, just slice one end off and squeeze. The onion cooked in its own juices will slide out. Now it’s into the blender with the tomatoes, capsicum, onion and some garlic for a big whiz. The mix will be pretty thick so I toss in some white wine (white for cooking – red for drinking) until its smooth.

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And there you go. Roast veg with tomato sauce served on a bed of Cous Cous (with the odd herb added). Plus a nice sausage for the Responsible Adult. Apologies for the photo quality, I’m experimenting with different gadgets for when we go back packing through Viet-nam, Laos and Cambodia in a few weeks.

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Exploring the depths of the vege crisper

Not sure how the rest of you are coping with the heat, but there ain’t a lot of paddock work happening round here. So I decided to do a couple of kitchen jobs. First, defrost the freezer. I found lots of treasures while giving it a clean out, but want to focus on a more mysterious area of the refrigeration system – the VEGE CRISPER.  Not sure about where you live, but the shops around the Paddock don’t sell you just the right portions of veges for dinner. So you eat some and put the rest in the crisper for later, then after a Shiraz or two, you forget all about them.

According to the papers, people in Oz toss out tons of food each year. At the Paddock, we try to not throw out anything. So if you’re going to have a bash at the crisper, start off by having some newspaper on hand (I use Fairfax newspapers, but Newscorp will do if you’re into that sort of thing) The reason is there will be a whole lot of peelings, seeds etc which can be wrapped in paper and be added to your compost pile.

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The veges come in roughly two formats – hard and leafy. Anything that looks like it’s been there for a while will get used up. In the hard category, I found some pumpkin, sweet potato and zucchini. These got tidied up, cut into chunks and roasted. I put a couple of onions in as well – if I’m roasting veg, onions always get added. Just leave these in their skins to cook in their own juices. Once roasted and cooled, I chop the veg up to bite sized pieces. The onions just squeeze out of their skins and get roughly chopped. Then it’s into a bowl with some 4 bean mix, a chopped tomato or two and some chopped feta cheese. Bloody bewtiful. My cardiologist would be proud.

The green leafy stuff was spinach and celery. I got some parsley from the herb patch as well. It goes into the blender with some fruit – I used honeydew melon and grapes, plus a bit of water to make a green smoothy to wash down my salad. It’s amazing how good a green smoothy tastes – and further amazing how much green leafy stuff you can consume this way.

Obviously, for the Responsible Adult I fried a couple of lamb sausages to go with the salad – and as usual, serve with a Shiraz – one green smoothy is sufficient.


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Chicken Parmigiana

There must be hundreds of recipes for Chicken Parmigiana, so I thought I might share mine. This dish was prepared for the Responsible Adult as I like my chooks to be running around the Paddock and laying eggs rather than on a plate. I mention this as the Responsible Adult doesn’t mind animal fats, so that’s what I use – you may wish to use vegetable oils instead.

So, I started out by frying some bacon – nice fatty bacon for the responsible adult – in bacon fat. It will be used as part of the topping so fry up a lot if you want lots of bacon flavour and less if you just want a hint of bacon. You might want to cook it well as it will get crumbled up. Then I took 2 chicken breasts cut into 3 (giving me 6 bits of chicken), and tossed them in the pan just to seal. As the first side was sealing, I added a couple of teaspoons of mustard powder and a healthy slop of Worcestishire sauce.

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So, you just want to seal it quickly, then transfer to an oven dish. Pour in the pan juices.

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Now whack your bacon into the food processor to crunch it up, then add some fresh bread. Using fresh bread means that the bread crumbs will soak up the juices and taste yummy. Then add some grated cheese. I use a nice sharp chedder for the Responsible Adult. Again, if you want it cheesy put in a lot. If you just want the taste to wander through, don’t add so much. Also, bear in mind some more cheese will be going on top.

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Put your bread crumb mixture on top of the sealed chook. Get some down into any gaps between the chicken bits. Then whack a bit more cheese on the top – Parmesan at our place – then into the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Chook 006And there you have it. I roasted a few potatoes and sweet potatoes for me (I had salmon) and the Responsible Adult. A few green leaves around the plate and a nice large glass of Shiraz and you’re in business.

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Profiteroles – easy peasy

Back in the olden days, when the Responsible Adult’s dear old Mum was still alive, she got me to make her Profiteroles. She would use any excuse, Christmas, her Birthday, Mothers Day. I sometimes wondered where I would find time to do some weeding. Anyway, when I was telling my youngest’s gorgeous gal-pal about this, she didn’t believe that I could make them – but they’re easy peasy. Choux Pastry is about the easiest thing you will ever make. And people love to eat the stuff. Here’s how, with plenty of pics for you.

But before you even think about this, get your oven going. You want it 220c or 430f – that’s right, good and hot.

Start off by measuring a cup of flour, and sift it onto a bit of baking paper (you want it on baking paper to be able add it all at once in a minute).

Prof 001Now put a cup of water and 75 grams (or 3 ounces – or 5 tablespoons – or a third of a cup – depending on where you come from) of butter in a saucepan to heat up and melt.

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When the butter has melted, dump the flour in. Don’t be fussy, just get it in and start mixing with your wooden spoon. It will all come together – and that’s when you stop mixing. Only takes a couple of secs.

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It should look a bit like the pic above. Now here comes the only bit that could possibly be the tiniest bit tricky, but stay with me, I’ll talk you through it. You’re supposed to add 4 eggs one at a time. The problem is, who knows how big the eggs should be? 4 really small eggs might be like 2 really big eggs. So here’s what I’d like you to do the first time. Add 3 medium eggs and forget the fourth. You can muck around and experiment next time, but this time I want your Choux pastry to work out. So, in with 3 eggs and use one of those electric beater thingies. I bought mine about 30 years ago from a cheap chain store and its still going strong. Now the point is too few eggs and you loose a certain richness. Too many eggs and your mix won’t stand up. You want a stiff mix. Next time you can experiment all you want, but for now just stick with 3 eggs and make a really stiff mix.

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Now remember that bit of baking paper you used for the sifted flour? Hope you didn’t toss it out, because you want to put that on a baking tray, grease it up a bit, then lump on your pastry mix. What you want is a ball shape. You can see I didn’t spend a lot of time on mine – if you make it too round, people will think they came from a bakery. Use 2 tablespoons to make your shape, or 2 teaspoons if you feel like making a whole lot of little ones.

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Bang it into that hot oven. In theory, you want it in a hot oven for 10 minutes, then turn down to a moderate oven for a further 15 minutes. But as I have recommended a dry mix for your first batch, I would like you to check after about 5 minutes and turn it down then. The drier the mix, the quicker it will cook. You can see mine got a bit burnt here and there. Don’t worry, once I pour some chocolate over them nobody will know. A shiraz or two and I’ll forget myself. Here’s another important bit. When you take them out of the oven, you want to put them on a rack to cool. As you take each one off the tray, stab it with a small sharp knife to let out any steam that has formed in the cavity.

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So here they are. If you’re feeling extra kind, you could now make a nice custard to go inside. As we have a local dairy that sells Jersey cream, I just whack in whipped cream (obviously when they have cooled). Then it’s melt some chocolate to put on top and there you go. A word about the chocolate – I use 70% cocoa chocolate given that there is a bucket of cream in each one. The guaranteed way to successfully melt chocolate is to boil water in the bottom of a double boiler. When the water has come to the boil, remove from the heat and put the top on with your broken up chocolate. Just stir and stir and stir. No need for anymore heat, the chocolate will melt nicely. If you are really keen, then after that, melt a tiny bit of white chocolate to wave about over the top to make thin, pretty white lines.

Anyway, that’s the batch I made for my youngest’s gorgeous gal-pal’s birthday. She seemed reasonably happy to see them.

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Pud on fire

Thought I’d better post a pic or two of the final stage of the Christmas Pud. Warm some brandy in a saucepan (too much is never enough for me, but remember, you will only burn off the alcohol, not the liquid). Pour over Pud. Ignite!! Serve with Custard, or Hard Sauce, or Cream or whatever takes your fancy and a nice Shiraz.

Pud 006  Pud 005

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Left Overs – try Croquettes

‘Tis the Season to have left overs. Here’s one way to deal with left over meaty stuff. Can be this meat or that meat – fish – whatever. First, chop it up finely. Then chop up an onion finely. Fry the onion in a bit of butter and add some herbs – I went for Oregano and Parsley. Use a low heat – it doesn’t take much to soften your onion. Add your chopped up meat, a tablespoon of mustard, a couple of tablespoons of flour and about the same amount of milk. Remove from the heat. Beat an egg and add some grated sharp cheese. Mix in the egg and cheese. Remove from the pan and put it in the freezer while you pour yourself a well earned Shiraz. After about 15 minutes in the freezer, you can work the mix into shapes. Then heat a bit more butter and some oil and fry. Serve with more Shiraz, some crusty bread and a salad. The Responsible Adult was happy while I finished off the rest of the Christmas Prawns.

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Cooking the onion etc

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About to go into the freezer

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Frying Up

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A mere Trifle

Despite having slaved away for hours and hours making a Christmas Pud, my youngest wants a trifle. So I made him one. What I would have liked to do was make a very pretty stylised trifle, but I know he would want a traditional kiddies one so that’s what I did. Trifle was a way to use up your old dried up sponge cake. Tear it up, add some sherry, then jellied fruit and custard on top. What I did was slice up some mini Swiss Rolls, add kiddies jelly, then fruit with more kiddies jelly, then custard.  I’ll put a bit of whipped cream on top just before serving. I might have a go at styling a trifle for his birthday. Here’s a couple of pics, just about to add the custard.

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Purple Jelly









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Some Peaches and Yellow Jelly


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Christmas Pud – The recipe

So here’s the actual recipe – 750g mixed dry fruit, a good splash of Rum, (too much is never enough) 250g butter, 500g brown sugar, 4 eggs, spices – whatever you like, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, 3 – 4 cups dry stuff (breadcrumbs or oats etc) See previous posts for how to put it together. Sharp observers will see only 3 eggs in my mix – they were bloody big eggs so I stopped at 3.

Extra tips – tradition says the pudding mix should be stirred with a wooden spoon and that the youngest person in your house should give it a stir – they get to lick the spoon. We put threepenny bits in years ago, but gave it away when they stopped making coins out of silver. Besides, what would a 21st Century kiddy-wink do with threepence? If you want to put in coins, buy some old silver coins and boil them up first. On Christmas day, give it about another half hour in boiling water to heat it. Warm some brandy in a saucepan, pour over and ignite.

You’ve still got time to make one before Christmas, so stop reading blogs and get in the kitchen. As mine is made, I will be watching the cricket. Day 3 and our brave Aussie warriors are well in front.

Here’s one I made earlier – in fact 22 years ago – my brother in law is about to set it on fire.

1990 Xmas_0002

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Christmas Pud – Ta Da!!

OK, it’s been a long and drawn out post, but making a Christmas Pud is a long and drawn out process.  Like Cricket, you do it over a few days. So, next step, cut out a top and bottom circle for your pudding bowl and grease that bowl really well. Then stuff your mix in hard – compact it (if you’re having trouble, find a manly Paddock Worker with biceps of steel like mine).  Use the back of a metal spoon to smooth down the mix. Don’t trust your lid, I put a couple of sheets of foil over the top before putting on the lid. The idea is to prevent steam from getting in.

Get it into a pot with water half way up the side, fit a lid and boil on the lowest heat for 6 hours. Watch the cricket. Australia declared at 5 for 450 (heroic sporting gesture) and have Sri Lanka 4 for 87 at stumps on day 2 of the Test. Cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

It will take about another 6 hours to cool completely then wrap it up in foil and put it back into the nicely washed up pudding bowl. Refrigerate until Christmas day. Here’s some pics including the finished pud.

The Responsible Adult has wine flu this morning (yes, another party for two last night) so I’m going to watch  Day 3 of the cricket now and will post the full recipe with extra instructions tomorrow.

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