Saturday, August 6, 2011


In the kitchen
A few weeks ago, I pulled out my 'Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook' to find my Osso Buco recipe.  This book came from my late, great Aunty Teresa, a Sicilian who thought that this book was mostly ok for Italian recipes.

Out of the pages floated two small sheets of paper. In the weeks after her death, I had torn the house apart to find these pieces of paper, and I'm sure that I looked carefully through this book to find them, to no avail.  But here they were now.  They have the recipes for a potato pancake, arancini and Aunty T biscuits scribbled on them.

When she died, I asked my son what he would most miss about her.
He said her stupid jokes and her biscuits.

Her jokes were stupid.  From the time he was eighteen months old, she would tell him that I wasn't his mother anymore, and I was her mum now, just to see his reaction.  Initially, he would cry.  At two years old, he would try to punch her.  By the time he was four, he would just roll his eyes and tell her not to be so dumb.  I think that the purpose of the joke was to help him grow a thicker skin, and entertain her..  She did like a good fight.

Her biscuits were divine. And I'd never made them, or tested her recipe when she was alive because you could always visit her and be force fed them until you exploded, along side incredibly strong expresso coffee.

I tried the recipe and it didn't work - and I've modified it a bit and it still is not the same (the biscuits don't rise properly) but they taste the same which is the important thing...

Osso Buco
4 osso buco
2 carrots
2 onions
3 celery sticks
1 clove garlic
800g whole tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
500mls beef stock
Strip of lemon rind
1. Fry up smashed garlic, diced carrots, onions and celery until the onions are golden brown - transfer to an oven proof dish.
2. Fry up osso buco in the pan, browning well on both sides - put on top of veggies
3. Either use a good jar of spaghetti sauce or make it:
Cook up tomatoes, with wine stock, herbs and lemon rind, bringing it to the boil and season with salt and pepper - then pour this over the veggies and meat
4. Cover the casserole and place in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours and serve.

Aunty T biscuits (almost)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 table spoons oil
1 cup self raising flour
cinnamon to taste
1. Beat eggs and sugar together
2. Whisk in oil
3. Add sifted flour and cinnamon
4. Ingredients should form a soft dough
5. Place on tray, lined with baking paper and cook for 10 mins at 250 degrees,
Let cool in oven to crisp up - then eat in one sitting, as if an old Italian lady is compelling you to eat more and more and more.  Leaving any would be an insult.

In the garden this week:
We harvested:
- Turnips (used in a stir fry, eaten most happily by the baby)
- Parsley, coriander
- Heaps of broccolini

Broad beans are flowering, as are self seeded tomato plants.

We need to start thinking about what to plant for spring.

I found some silverbeet, growing out from underneath some broccolini, that must have self seeded from a cutting given to us by Aunty Teresa years ago.  It was nice to be visited by memories from her in the kitchen and garden this week.  I miss her.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another one bites the dust

Today, as the day dawned over Melbourne, I started a half marathon.
I started running a few years ago, running as far and fast as I could in one direction for 11 minutes, then trying to come back in 9.  Recently, I was running 5 km, 6 days a week, and on seeing the 'Run Melbourne Half Marathon' advertised, I thought I'd give it ago.

This morning, the crowd waited in semi-darkness for the start.  It was gorgeous running through the streets as the sun came up.

At the 2km mark, I thought that the people who were already walking weren't putting in a huge effort.
At 4kms, I thought that the mix tape I'd put on my Ipod was awesome, I was running well but I'd never catch the older lady in hot pink 50m ahead of me (she had great pace).
At the half way mark, I passed the older lady and had really found my legs, making excellent time.  The event had lots of little music groups playing as you passed, a violinist, jazz band, and some djs.  The dj playing 'Another One Bites the Dust' was spectacularly uncool.
At the 13km mark, I realised I was now on track to finish in under 2 hrs - I would never have thought that was possible.

Things looked rosy, UNTIL the 14km mark, when my knee started to go.  I stopped to rub it and it felt better for a while, but by 18kms it was a mess. I had to walk or run with small steps. I lost time but I was finishing no matter what.  

As I came through to the last 100m I saw my folks and my family cheering me on - a big plus and then came across the line and stopped running, and almost started crying.  But then remembered it was all over and instantly felt better and started feeling fantastic again.  The person I came across the line with also started limping as they finished - there were probably lots of people with the same problems as myself.

Earlier this week, my kids and I were struck with the horrible fever/flu/bug thing that everyone seemed to have, and on Wednesday, I really thought that I wouldn't be able to do the event, but everything cleared up and I was able to try.

If you want to have a go at running, I highly recommend it.  Aside from the muscle soreness setting in, I feel incredible and really chuffed with myself.  It was a huge amount of work but the Run Melbourne event was a great goal to have.  A month ago, I ran 18kms as fast as I could, finishing in 2hrs 18mins, so even since then, I've seen a huge improvement.

To train, I've run 5km on Tuesdays and Thursdays (half hour duration, up and down the hills of Moonee Ponds/Brunswick), and a longer run, 12-18km on Saturday mornings (up to Carlton or down to the Maribynong, 1-2hrs).  I have done these runs by myself but running with a pram is great exercise too.  In my experience, the child along for the ride either sleeps or pretends they are flying.  Anyway, once you have a modicum of fitness, the time required isn't huge, and like most people, I enjoyed listening to my Ipod as I went along, spending sometime inside my own head.

In the garden this week:

  • More coffee grinds have been scattered to stop the onslaught of snails and improve flowering.
  • We have plans to trial an idea from Anthony Bourdain's show 'No Reservations' from Spain, where salad onions were cut and put under soil, growing leek like tops - will keep you posted regarding any success.
  • We have capsicum plants growing from composted material throughout the garden - growing fruit even in this cold weather.

Monday, July 4, 2011


This week, in the garden:
While buying the large quantities of chocolate and coffee at our local cafe/sweet shop, my husband has set up a deal with the shop owner, where he gets all the used coffee grinds from their busy coffee machine for our garden.
He is collecting two large bags twice a week, so that now our veggie patch has about an inch covering of coffee grinds over the surface.  Any snail problems have ceased instantly.  And the broccoli is sprouting hugely, so that we have 3 big servings a week, and there is a risk of stuff remaining going to seed.  I noticed when planting out some seedlings that the the soil seems to be improving a lot too.

Also harvested this week:

  • Beetroot leaves for a salad, along side spinach and lettuce, nice for the colour.
  • Coriander, mint, parsley
  • Radish
One school holiday activity will be to set up a structure around the broadbeans to allow them to keep growing upwards.

In the kitchen this week:
When my parents were over for an impromptu dinner, I had roasted brussel sprouts as in this recipe.
My dad was delighted.  My husband and mother were horrified.  Apparently, Mum had never made me eat them, and was shocked that I'd dish them up for her.  The dissenters politely tried them, but clearly were forcing them down, being watched by an amused five yo, exempt from the experiment.  Dad thought the brussel sprouts were lovely.  Everyone else declined to comment.  I thought they were great, and I've never even liked them.  The outer leaves blackened and went crispy like thin chips, so there was a mix of soft vegetable and crunchiness that was fantastic.
I tried cooking them again on Sunday night, again with my folks over, this time adding bacon to the mix.  The diners were far happier with this, with the bacon flavour infusing with the vegetable even appreciated by my semi-vego husband, but all the fabulous crispiness was lost, so I wasn't a huge fan anymore.  Everyone is a critic.  

I think that I'll revert to the original recipe and just make them when my dad is coming over.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quest and rest

In the garden this week:
Somewhat uncleverly, my husband put painful dermatitis on his hand in close proximity to rotting matter when turning the compost without gloves on.  In the process managing to lose his wedding ring amongst the muck.
I suggested a trip across town to borrow his dad's metal detector, but he preferred to carefully look through the decaying matter (with now gloved hands) in his quest for the ring.  Half an hour later, he immerged dirty but triumphant, ring on finger, quest complete.  And apparently the compost was really well mixed now too.  Awesome.
We have harvested spinach, coriander, lettuce, parsley, and broccolini - very yum.
Roses have been pruned also - despite the fact that they were still flowering - otherwise I'd never have gotten around to it...

For some garden inspiration - 

I also took my folks and baby on a tour of the Fitzroy gardens in the city led by one of their gardeners - it was free and a really great way of hearing about the history of Melbourne, via the development of an amazing garden...  The garden is worth visiting, even without the tour though - lots of little surprises around each bend in the path, with my favourite being the Conservatory - a riot of colour and breath taking plant displays, open every day except Christmas, 9-5pm.  Tours start at 12:30 on Wednesday, outside the Conservatory.

In the kitchen this week:

  • Lemon soup - mentioned last week was trialled and much loved by all, including the baby - with shredded chicken put through the soup for meat eaters.  Good winter meal, especially if you are getting a sore throat.
  • Breakfast for dinner - tonight we had scrambled eggs as per Tetsuya - delicious and prepared in under 2 minutes - excellent!

Monday, June 6, 2011


In the garden this week, we have harvested, spinach, radishes and the first brocollini and lemons.

A few years ago, gall wasp attacked citrus trees through Melbourne and we were told to cut off all affected branches.  My dad and father in law performed the tree surgery, leaving us with a mere stump of a tree.  It was very sad.  More happily, in recent years, we have been told that you just need to cut into the gall wasp bumps on the tree so that affected trees can be allowed to grow.  Ours has regrown and this is the first year where we have a decent crop since the sad stumping.

In preparation for the ripening of the fruit, I'm including my recipes for dealing with a glut of lemons:

Lemon and hot water - excellent cold remedy, important as the weather gets colder and my nose starts running like a tap.

Preserved lemons:
I follow a recipe from Maggie Beer -
Preserving lemons is quick and easy...
With the bitter pith removed, the peel can add a punch to anything savoury, beyond tagine cooking.  My favourite uses are adding it to greek yohgurt with some mint for a kebab sauce, or adding it with tiny diced veggies to couscous for a bright looking, sharp tasting salad...

Lemon slice:
I saw this being made on tv last week - looked very tart but yummo:
I've lost the little book that I have my normal lemon tart recipe in. Grrrrrrr.

Lemon soup?
When picking up our son at school, one of the mum's was passing out lemons from her tree, and another took them all very happily, to make 'lemon soup', a big family favourite based on a staple from Greek Easter - we will be giving this a go - very intriguing.

Lemon Ice Cream: (Makes 8 inch ice cream cake)
For an easy cake for a celebration, try this ice-cream cake.
The only difficult bit of this is standing over the lemon curd stirring as it sets, but is worth the effort for a decadent dessert.
Lemon Ice Cream
1 recipe lemon curd*
500mls cream
6 tb sp icing sugar
lemon juice to taste
 Beat curd until smooth
 Whip cream and sugar
 Fold in curd
 Freeze for 3 hours
  OR alternately, freeze for 1.5 hours and then fold in some meringue for lemon meringue ice cream.

   *Lemon Curd (makes ~1lt)
     4 large lemons
     250g butter
     360g sugar
     6 beaten eggs
       Grate zest
       Squeeze juice and add to sugar and butter
       Double boil it until butter melts
       Add eggs and stir for 20 minutes until it thickens and is translucent...
       Sieve mixure..

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Autumn leaves are falling and the broadbeans have hit around 50cm high, radishes, lettuce, spinach and herbs are being harvested.
On ABC Gardening (Channel 2, 6:30pm Saturday nights) a while ago, they said you could plant out the roots of spring onions and they’d grow again.  As I've said on previous posts, I tried it and it works, and since then I’ve been chopping some off most nights and they keep regrowing which is handy.  With the roots already grown, the veggies shoot up really quickly.

With some experimentation, I’ve found that works for leeks too.  On cold days, it is great to wander out the front and get some leek for a winter soup.
It is nice to find that you can recycle kitchen scraps for something other than the compost.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pick a salad

In the garden this week:
Harvesting radish, spinach, spring onions (regrown from bought spring onions), coriander and lettuce.
Radish is a fast growing veggie, and can be planted year round.  It has a 4-8 week growing time, depending on time of the year (longer in cooler months), worth putting in if you have space, to get some crunch in your salads, especially now when not much with colour is growing.

In the kitchen this week:
A chicken and 'cheese sauce'* vol au vent** with salad made from the above items with a mustard dressing:
Teaspoon - mustard
Tablespoon - balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons - olive oil...

*'Cheese sauce' is code in our house for cauliflower and peeled zucchini soup reduced to make a thick sauce, relabelled to assist in the hiding of vegetables from young children - also doubles as baby food.
**The vol au vent cases were made following Easy to make - kids could do it...  They turned out a bit dumpy but were well received with the comment:
                                      'Vol a what? It's easier to say dinner croissant' from the 5yo.

This was my slightly healthier version of seen on Everyday Gourmet on channel 10 at 4pm weekdays...  

It was nice despite the wintery temperature to be able to walk out into the yard for the ingredients to make a salad with crunch and colour.