Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal debacle

In the Garden:
The ongoing intermittent rain and sunshine has seen excellent growth in the garden – Broad beans, brocolli and shallots growing particularly well – with broadbean shoots over 15cm tall.
Following a suggestion from Gardening Australia on the ABC,  6:30pm Saturday night, I popped some 5cm roots of spring onions in the ground and they are already shooting new growth, with in a few days of planting - should have new spring onions to use in no time...

In the kitchen:
I'm preparing a royal wedding mini feast:
But before getting to that, I'll introduce myself using my royal title:
Lady Maria Tiger of Richardson, please to meet you...
(Royal title: Lord/Lady {A grandparent's first name} [First pet's name] of (First street you lived in))

In honour of the thousands of strawberries to be consumed in London, in concert no doubt with litres of champagne, we are having a strawberry and basil salad, served with mini hotdogs (the latter requested by the 5yo).  This excellent menu is surely glamourous enough to reflect this sophisticated event.
For the salad, the onion, lettuce and basil come from the front garden:
Lettuce is growing well too – if you don’t have much space, I’d recommend buying lettuce seedlings, you can get 6 various plants in a punnet for~$5 from most nurseries and they’ll grow in containers – and unless you want to feed an army, you won’t need to buy lettuce leaves again for sometime…

Food revelation of the week was pearl couscous - much larger than normal couscous, and far more delicious, on sale at Coles in 250g packages, near the pasta, I used the this recipe for a quick weeknight meal:
I used the 250g of couscous, plus 2 cans of chickpeas, plus spinach and would use a red capsicum next time too for colour - I highly recommend trying this, you won't be disappointed.
I had a few WTF moments this week, when people said things along the lines of:
'What am I going to do with these Easter eggs?'
'Eat them, !@#$%' was my immediate but silent response. They went on to explain some eggs given to them were of dubious quality - I suggested using them in chocolate chip cookies, but they were being thrown out.
I don't think Easter eggs are the best idea, given small qualities of chocolate all individually wrapped, creating a lot of waste in itself, but them to dispose of them in full speaks of being even more wasteful again...

Today, I visited my parents where we had afternoon tea, of chickpea brownies, made with low quality Easter egg chocolate, with lots of tiny eggs painstakingly pealed by my dad.  
The brownies turned out beautifully and were a great use of the chocolate that may otherwise have gone to waste.  (There were also Anzac biscuits in honour of 25 April.)  Bravo mum, meeting the culinary challenge of Easter egg chocolate usage with aplomb and making an excellent afternoon tea.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter

In the kitchen - for Easter, we made sugar cookies and iced them, with a cookie recipe and icing technique as taught by

The only changes made were that:

  • For our royal icing I used 2 egg whites mixed with ~400g of icing sugar to get the appropriate consistency - This would change though on the size of the eggs you use, so it is worth reading her blog on the 10 second consistency check for icing to get it right...  When I needed to make the icing more runny, I just added some water.
  • For piping the icing, I use oven bags with a tiny cut made in the corner to squeeze the icing out - cheaper and easier to find at the shops than traditional icing bags.

The sugar cookie recipe is super super sweet, even by my sweet tooth standards - next year I'll convert back to making gingerbread cookies, but will ice them this way again...  Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This week, we went on holiday... I'd wanted our 5yo son to see some of 'Australia' and so, we set out to take in the Great Alpine Road and some of the Lakes Coast - A 'family adventure' that I'd highly recommend.

On the road - 
Despite incessant rain, we managed to have fun, singing in the rain along the Bright railway walking track and visiting various delicious cafes and bakeries in our travels.   We all enjoyed a few local museums - the Bright Museum is situated in the old railway station, with various displays of historical clothes, toys, town history and gold rush made in a series of train carriages and trucks.  For a train crazy 5yo, it was heaven and we spent ages playing at travelling through time, visiting an old Chinese temple and the Police Cells, a turn of the century laundry, kitchen and drawing room.  The Omeo museum had a log cabin gaol which was apparently in use until 1981 - breezy in winter I'd expect.
We left Bright in heavy rain, and drove along the Great Alpine Road to Hotham, through Harrietville.  It was disconcerting to see how much of these little towns were for sale, most of Beechworth, a lot of Bright and  Harrietville seemed to be on the market.  As we drove up the winding roads, clouds settled over the road and wind blew mist in and out of our vision.  The mountain was snow covered, sleeting, bitter and slippery.  The desent on the other side was less severe, with the snow clearing quickly and the roads less windy.  We broke the drive in Omeo which was great.  The bakery had excellent pasties, with buttery, melt in your mouth pastry and rich hot chocolate.  The local museum was again a source of fun and we also visited the cuckoo clock shop - the 5yo had never seen one, so seeing lots chime the hour was big thrill.

To make the drive pass more easily, we listened to a talking book from the library 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', excitingly read by Stephen Fry.  The Bright Op shop had an excellent window display of Harry Potter, complete with Harry, Ron, Hermoine dollies, a handmade Hogwarts express and a house elf Dolby, made from stocking and stuffing..  The talking book was 18 discs long, and I was very glad as we listened to this for the full trip that I had chosen this ahead of Bumageddon by Andy Griffiths.  Not sure I could have stood that.  I was not sure how much effect the book had on the 5yo until just now, when I walked into the kitchen and he jumped out holding a stick, yelling 'STUPIFY!!!'  I was suitably rendered stupid.

At one point during the drive, clouds gathered and the skies darkened, and I noticed a signpost indicating that we were passing through 'Hell's Point', quickly followed by 'Evil Stream'.  I stopped looking at signposts when we drove passed the confrontingly named 'Red Knob'.

In the kitchen this week:
Baby food central - with poached fruit, soups and veggie custards at the fore.
Prior to the holiday I went into holiday mode and I'd cooked only once and rolled out the same meal in various guises as follows:
Kangaroo Mousakka
1kg kangaroo mince
800g tinned tomatoes
Olive Oil
Garlic to taste
Balsamic Vinegar
400g tub ricotta
400g grated cheese
2 large eggplants, slice thickly.

Similar to a lasagne, the onion and garlic is cooked in oil, then the mince browned, the tomatoes and stock added to cover and then cooked for ~20 minutes, then balsamic vinegar for taste.
Then take a lasagne dish, place a layer of mince along the base, then eggplant, then dollop ricotta and other cheese, then the mince again, etc until all the ingredients are used....

We ate this as standard mousakka the first night.  
Portions were also put in the freezer for lazy nights.
The second night I blitzed up the mousakka with the hand mixer and used it as a pasta sauce, served with wholemeal pasta - with eggplant hidden in the mixture going unnoticed by the 5yos highly tuned veggie detector. This also doubled as baby food.
It is in the freezer, ready to return as a pizza topping...

In the garden - 
We returned home to find seedlings emerging, with broadbeans, spinach and shallots putting on the best showing so far.

On a happy note, in the kitchen this week also saw manic dancing after I found out that I'd won a hand crafted Easter egg from my favourite chocolatier Willie from Willie's World of Chocolate, as seen on the ABC - the Cacao Kangaroo Stroganoff being a winning entry for his savoury meal competition.  I like to think this means that my cooking is now of international standard.

Monday, April 4, 2011


In our front yard this week, we finally were able to finish building the 4 new beds that replaced 2 larger, cumbersome ones.  When I say 'we', I mean Gnomeo, who did most of the work - many kisses for him.

The beds were planted out with broadbeans, peas, spinach, lettuce, carrot, parsnip, shallots, onions.  Beetroot, broccoli, leek and radishes are already well on their way...  Hurrah.

With the demolition of the old beds, we got a few potatoes and pumpkins from the huge vines that had grown.  After harvesting pumpkins, Gnomeo took a mower on the mulching setting to the vines, to chop them up for the compost, but was horrified to find that he had grated up a few largish pumpkins he hadn't seen earlier.  We called this 'The Grate Pumpkin Massacre' and will never speak of it again.

In the kitchen this week, I have been experimenting.

Most of my ideas were borne out of a challenge on Facebook from Willie's Cacao company to come up with a meal idea using Cacao...

My first thoughts sprang to a snack that I have been hankering after - Popped quinoa and chocolate sticks as seen on  Imagine the flavour possibities as super foods unite!

My attempts to pop quinoa, in the manner of cooking pop corn resulted in:
  • The popcorn maker smelling a bit burny, 
  • Two burnt saucepans and an evil smell through the house,  
  • A single popped grain of quinoa..
I haven't given up trying to make this, but I won't try again for a little while... Down but not defeated.

After experiencing the lovely flavours in Willie's mushroom risotto, my second thoughts went to
Cacao Stroganoff...  
500g kangaroo fillet (or beef, lamb)
500g mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
150mls sour cream
Pinch paprika
2 tablespoons grated cacao.
1/2 cup red wine

Fry up onion in oil
Then brown meat
Add mushrooms, then add wine and stock and cover and cook for 1 hr (more or less time allowing)
Before serving, add paprika, cacao and sour cream and stir through.
Serve with rice....

The red wine and cacao made a great combination - shavings of cacao over the top of the dish helped with the aroma as the dish came to the table, with cacao shavings melting into the sauce as we took the first bite...

I used kangaroo in the above recipe, because my husband won't eat other meat - and contrary to common  thought, it can be stewed, becoming tender over the longer cooking time, though you could get a better result with beef or lamb stewed over a similar timeframe.

It was delicious, though as I'm getting used to the idea of adding cacao to savoury food, I'm pretty sure it could add something to a lot of different dishes.

Regarding my tea party idea - we haven't started reading Alice in Wonderland yet, but I have some ideas in the works for an Easter tea party brunch...  For our reading, we will re-name Alice as Alan, if only to repeatedly mimic the clip below - 'Alan! Alan!!! Alan!!!!!!!!!!!!'