Beef ragout (pronounced beef ragu)

parsnips, garlic, carrots, onionEthnodelicious: eat, travel, collect, 160pp.
by Dorinda Hafner and William and Dorothy Hall
Cameron House, Winfield South Australia, 2005
Cooking on page 32–33

My other blog covers our travels, so I was instantly drawn to this cookbook that features a collection of recipes from around the world. Dishes are from 36 countries on all the continents except Antarctica.

Several recipes for each country are shared, along with suggestions for things to ‘collect’ from each place. Suggestions range from silver in Mexico to Celadon pottery in Korea.

Dorinda Hafner is the expert on cuisines—I have three of her other cookbooks—and develops authentic recipes. William and Dorothy Hall are expert collectors of things, and have compiled the ‘shopping’ ideas and explanations.

Pages 32–33 feature a well-known recipe from France.

Beef ragout (beef ragu)

Beef ragout (pronounced beef ragu)

1.25 kg (2.7 pounds) gravy beef, trimmed and cut into 4 cm cubes
30 g (2 tablespoons) plain flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 rashers lean bacon (fat and rind discarded), chopped
1 medium onion studded with cloves (skewer the onion before putting in the cloves)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, each cut into 4 chunks
1 parsnip peeled and quartered
1 leek (cleaned, and outer leave discarded), cut into thick slices
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 fresh, ripe tomatoes blanched, peeled and pulped
1 1/2 cups beef or vegetable stock

beef cubes cooking beef ragout cooking beef ragout

Preheat the over to 150°C (300°F).

Put the meat into a mixing bowl, season with a little salt, and sprinkle with the flour to coat. Cover and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or 2.5 litre casserole and cook the bacon for 4–6 minutes on medium to low heat, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the oil and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium high, and add the coated meat to the hot oil. Cook for 5–7 minutes, stirring continuously, until browned. Add the bacon pieces, the studded onion, the garlic, half the carrots, half the parsnips, and the leek.

Blend together the tomato paste, the pulped tomatoes and the stock and add them to the meat.

Cover and bake slowly in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 30–40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the meat is very tender. Remove the studded onion and serve the ragout hot with steamed rice, mashed potato or baked potato.

How it played out
Amazingly I had everything on hand (including gravy beef bought at a 30 per cent off sale). I made this mostly as written. A preparation picture in the cookbook showed about 25 cloves poked into the onion, but I used no more than 8, which was plenty. And I just pushed them in, without using a skewer.

Scalloped potatoes

I made this when it was still wintry in Australia, so the tomatoes weren’t that great. Instead of fresh, I used a 400-gram tin of already diced tomatoes. Otherwise I followed the recipe.

I tweaked the ingredient list here to include imperial measures as well as the metric measures used in the original recipe.

Served with a salad, steamed green beans and an amazing creamy, cheesy potato dish (pictured just above on the right) made by our friend, Caroline, who also joined us for dinner.


I added the imperial measurements because this recipe is so doggone delicious, I want everyone in the world to try it. Seriously, if you eat meat and have an oven, you have to try this recipe.

We all loved it! If you make it, let me know what you think of it.

If you follow my travel blog, You’ll know we’ve been to France several times in the last few years.

Here’s a link to a post about some of our most memorable meals in that amazing country—a real land of food.

Beef ragout (ragu)

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Caramelised onion scrambled eggs

Omelet ingredientsPolska: new Polish cooking, 256pp.
by Zuza Zak
Quadrille Publishing, London, 2016
Cooking on page 32–33

I’ve visited several Eastern European countries, but Poland is still on my wish list. Luckily, we have a great Polish restaurant in Canberra, so I have been exposed to the cuisine, but never in the country.

Zuza Zak opens her book with a chapter about the cuisine, dishes across the centuries, seasonal produce and popular ingredients in Polish cooking.

Page 32 has a common ingredients—eggs—and incorporates one of my other favourite ingredients—onions.

Caramelised onion omeletCaramelised onion scrambled eggs

1 tablespoon salted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
5 eggs
splash of milk
pinch of sweet paprika
salt and white pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a large frying pan (skillet) and add the chopped onion. Cover the pan and cook over the lowest possible heat for about 15 minutes.

eggs and onions Sautéing onionsFor the final 7–8 minutes remove the lid and stir occasionally, seasoning with salt and white pepper near the end of the frying time. The edges should crisp up slightly, but not char, as this will make your scrambled eggs taste bitter.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with a splash of milk, a little bit of salt and a pinch of paprika.

Finally, pour the eggs over the onion and fry over a low heat, stirring almost continuously for the final 3–4 minutes that it takes to get the scrambled eggs to the consistency you prefer. Serves 2.

How it played out
Poor John is an early riser and often has breakfast before I get up. So this morning, I made this just for me, using 2 eggs and half an onion. I shortened the cooking times just a little, and everything came together as the recipe described.

eggs and onionsServed with a toasted slice of my homemade wholemeal sourdough bread and a splash of parsley.

I love eggs and onion and butter and milk and paprika, so it’s no surprise that I loved this recipe. While I savoured every bite, I was surprised by how much the sweetness of the onion came through. Lots more than any other onion recipe I have made. 

You can be sure I’ll make this again. If he’s lucky, I might even get up early and make it for Poor John too.

Cooking is always part of our overland travels. We camp and take it in turns to cook. Onions, tomatoes, potatoes and eggs are the most common ingredients to be found. Here’s a link to a post about cook groups.

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Red onion and sherry jam

ingredients for onion jamNew kitchen, 272pp.
by Karen Martini
Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2015
Cooking on page 32

This is the second time I have cooked from one of Karen Martini’s books. That first recipe was for cannellini beans.

This book reflects how much her tastes, food choices and kitchen pantry have expanded and changed over the years. Today she’d have many varieties of everyday staples such as rices and vinegars, as well as items she hadn’t heard of in her early years of cooking, such as kimchi and shiitake mushrooms.

Page 32 has a recipe for a simple savoury jam that most people think you have to buy instead of making at home.

Red onion and sherry jam on toast

Red onion and sherry jam

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
8 red onions, halved and sliced lengthways
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon salt flakes
1 handful of golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly ground
1 fresh bay leaf
2 bird’s eye chillies. split lengthways
120 g caster sugar
100 g brown sugar
150 ml white wine vinegar
100 ml sherry vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons fino sherry

red onions and garlic stewing onions onion jam upside downMethod
You will need enough sterilised jars and lids for 3 1/2 cups of onion jam.

Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the raisins, pepper, spices, bay leaf and chillies, cover, turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sugars and vinegar to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes until all the liquid had evaporated and the onion is stewed and sticky but still moist—it should be vibrantly coloured. Stir through the sherry and remove from the heat.

Spoon the jam into jars while hot, seal and turn upside down to cool. You can use the jam immediately, but it’s better after a week and will store for up to 3 months in the pantry. Refrigerate after opening and keep for up to 2 weeks.

How it played out
We love onion jam and I’ve made a variety of homemade recipes over the years. This is the first recipe that ever called for sherry. I made this mostly as written. Red onions tend to be smallish, so a kilo of them is equal to about eight onions.

New Kitchen cookbook, Karen MartiniMy only real change was to use raspberry vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, which I didn’t have on hand and didn’t rush out to buy. Was glad (and rather surprised) that I had fino sherry and allspice berries on hand. Must have known they’d come in handy one day.

I let this ‘cure’ for almost two months before opening a jar. The taste is superb.

We’re using it on cold meats, eggs, sandwiches and more. I might even blend some into a dip. Just watch out for the whole allspice berries. They’re lurking in there to break your teeth.

Red onion and sherry jam

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Bayou jambalaya

Bell pepper, celery and onionMake-ahead entertaining, 160pp.
by Mable and Gar Hoffman
HPBooks, Tucson Arizona, 1985
Cooking on page 96 (32 x 3)

Back in the 1970s and 80s, Mabel and Gar Hoffman were HPBooks’ best-selling cookbook team. This is the second time I’ve shared one of their recipes. The first—posted almost seven years ago—was for an appetiser.

In preparing this post, I was interested to find that the Hoffmans published 18 cookbooks. In the 1970s, Mabel was a pioneer in teaching people how to use slow cookers. She was passionate about the ease offered by that style of cooking, and began collecting them. She had 20 in her test kitchen alone. Mabel died in 2010. Gar died in 1993.

Page 32 had a menu for picnics, so I moved on to page 96 (32 x 3) and a southern recipe.

Bayou jambalaya

Bayou jambalaya

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (3 to 3 1/2 lb) broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 onion, chopped
1 medium, green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 lb smoked sausage links, slice about 1/4 inch thick
2 cups beef broth or bouillon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried leaf thyme

spices for bayou jambalaya sautéing chicken browning rice jambalaya cookingMethod
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter or margarine; add oil. Add chicken; brown on both sides. Remove chicken from pan. Stir rice into drippings in pan; stirring constantly, cook until rice is a light golden color.

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and sausage. Stir in broth or bouillon, chili powder, salt, red pepper and thyme. Return browned chicken to pan.

Cover; cook 40 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Complete now or make ahead. Serves 6.

To complete now, serve in a colorful skillet, or spoon into a large platter or serving dish; serve hot.

To make ahead, place chicken and sauce in a nonmetal container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. Reheat 15 to 20 minutes or until hot. Serve as directed above.

How it played out
Even though I have great, sharp knives, you have no idea how much I hate to cut up a whole chicken.

You can bet that the next time I make this recipe, I will use already cut-up legs and thighs or some other mixture.

Other than swearing for the next 10 minutes (and managing not to cut or stab myself), I made this recipe mostly as written. I used butter, chorizo sausage, almost a whole teaspoon of chilli powder and a generous 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne.

Because this is a dish for entertaining, I invited our dear friend, Caroline, around to join us. Even though I didn’t serve it up in a colourful skillet—instead in the pan in which it was cooked—we all loved it.

Make ahead entertaining cookbookVerdict
This is an amazing one-dish meal that is so quick and easy to make. I’m unlikely to make this ahead (as the cookbook title suggests), but I will count on it as a perfect recipe to make on the night it is to be served. But remember that I’ll be using already cut-up chicken.

Two days later, I took some leftovers to my friend, Maggie, in Yass. Her text message says it all—‘by the way, that chicken is awesome’.

P.S. As an aside, we are minding a friend’s dog for a month. Lolly may have only three legs (car accident) but, when I wasn’t looking, she managed to grab and eat the chicken carcass that I planned to use to make chicken stock. She didn’t look the slightest bit guilty or apologetic.

Bayou jambalaya

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Tandoori fish and cucumber tomato salad

Tandoori fish ingredientsEasy: 100 delicious dishes for every day, 256pp.
by Bill Granger
HarpersCollinsPublisher, Sydney, 2012
Cooking on page 32

Bill Granger is well-known in Australia and beyond. He regularly contributes to national magazines and newspaper, and his television series has been viewed in 30 countries worldwide. A self-taught cook, Bill focuses on recipes that use fresh, local ingredients. In addition to running restaurants in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the USA and Korea, Bill has written 10 cookbooks.

I own three of his books—made these page-32 recipes three years ago—but I checked this one out from the library.

Tandoori fish and cucumber salad

Tandoori fish and cucumber tomato salad

3 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons tandoori curry paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4 white fish fillets (about 180g each), skinned
lime pickle (shop bought)
1 lime, cut into wedges

Cucumber tomato salad ingredientsCucumber tomato salad
1 Lebanese cucumber, roughly chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons roughly chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed

Preheat a grill to high. Mix together the yoghurt, tandoori paste, lemon juice, garlic and ginger in a bowl. Add the fish and coat well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Lift the fish from the marinade and place in a single layer on an oven tray lined with foil, keeping space between each fillet. Grill for 3–4 minutes, or until just cooked. Serve with cucumber tomato salad, lime pickle and lime wedges. Serves 4.

Cucumber tomato salad
Place the cucumber, tomato and yoghurt in a bowl and stir gently to combine. Add the mint leaves and scatter the cumin seeds.

Tandoori sauce Tandoori fish to bakeHow it played out
Have wanted to make this for ages and kept peering into the cupboard, searching for my jar of tandoori paste. I finally accepted the fact that I was out of this important ingredient and bought some at the Indian deli.

I then made this mostly as written. I had three fish fillets that were slightly larger than 180 grams (6 ounces) each, so made the full amount of marinade. I didn’t have a lime. They aren’t in season and currently running at $3 each. Argh!

My Lebanese cucumbers were quite small, so I used two for the salad. I toasted the cumin seeds for about a minute in a small cast iron pan.

For those of you who weigh ingredients, 3 tablespoons of yoghurt and curry paste each weigh about 53 grams or 2 ounces.

The fish took 10 minutes to cook through. I don’t grill often, and the extra timing is probably due to user error or incompetence. I used a timer and checked every few minutes.

Easy by Bill GrangerI completely forgot to serve with lime pickle, which is surprising because it is one of my favourite Indian condiments. Luckily I ate about a tablespoon of it at lunch.

On tasting, Poor John’s first comment was ‘this is so nice for a change’ which meant he loved it and noticed that I hadn’t made anything tandoori in a while. I loved it too.

We have fish once or twice a week and I can foresee making this regularly. Was perfect served with the cucumber salad and corn on the cob.

We love Indian food and have been lucky enough to visit India three times in the last few years. Here’s a post about one of the best tandoori meals we had.

Tandoori fish with salad and corn

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Creamy spinach in zucchini

Zucchini to bakeThe no time to cook book, 80pp.
edited by Sheryl Eastwood
JB Fairfax Press, Rushcutters Bay, New South Wales, 1989
Cooking on page 32

These days I have plenty of time to cook, but I bought this many years ago when work obligations interfered with my lifestyle. Back then, Poor John and our daughters carried out much of the cooking duties at our house. They tried hard, but we ate way too much processed food. That’s history now.

This book has lots of speedy recipes. Page 32 is in a chapter entitled ‘Healthy lifestyles’.

Creamy spinach in zucchini

Creamy spinach in zucchini

6 medium zucchini
250 g frozen spinach, thawed
125 g ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
2 rashers bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp
1/2 cup (60 g) grated tasty cheese

zucchini and ricotta spinach mixtureMethod
Trim ends from zucchini and drop into a saucepan of boiling water. Cook for 8–10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and halve lengthways. Carefully scoop out centres leaving shells with a little flesh. Finely chop scooped out flesh.

Squeeze spinach to remove liquid. Mix with chopped zucchini, ricotta, nutmeg and egg. Spoon into zucchini shells, top with combined bacon and cheese and dust lightly with paprika. Place on a greased oven tray and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 15–20 minutes or until golden.

Serves 6.

How it played out
It was just Poor John and me last week, so I made half a batch using three zucchinis but still one whole egg (how do you measure half an egg, and don’t tell me to weigh it). As an aside, the three zucchinis weighed almost 500 grams (0r about one pound).

No time to cook cookbookI cooked the zucchinis for 8 minutes and they probably could have used 9. Not to worry. It all worked out well. Baked the assembled zucchinis for 16 minutes.

Oh my goodness, this is a delicious way to prepare zucchini. We loved every bite, and I’ll be making this again regularly.

It’s summer in Australia, and I’m lucky enough to have two zucchini plants growing in the garden.

Zucchini always reminds me of a wonderful vegetarian meal we had in Selçuk Turkey. You can read about it and the unexpected chef here.

baked zucchini and spinach

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Bloody Mary oyster shooters

Bloody Mary ingredientsThe best collection: fast fabulous food, 272pp.
by Lyndey Milan
New Holland Publishers (Australia), Sydney, 2009
Cooking on page 3

For more than 30 years, Lyndey Milan has been one of Australia’s most recognised food and cooking show personalities. Over the years she has contributed widely to television, radio and print media. She has written nine cookbooks and hosted eight television series, including Fresh with the Australian Women’s Weekly. She was also food director for The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine.

This is the first time I’ve cooked one of her recipes. To be honest, I couldn’t resist the main ingredients.


Bloody Mary oyster shooters

150 ml (5 fl oz) vodka or gin
1 tablespoon (1 fl oz) Worcestershire sauce
10 drops Tabasco, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
generous salt and freshly ground pepper
1 litre (2 pints) tomato juice
2 dozen oysters

Combine vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, salt, pepper and tomato juice and shake with a dozen ice cubes. Drain and pour into shot glasses. Drop an oyster in each and serve immediately. Makes 24.

Shucking oysters Oysters

Note: Oysters can be bought on the shell, or inexpensively in jars. You can substitute sherry or port glasses for shot glasses.

How it played out
Poor John is my hero when it comes to oysters. He has a great oyster knife and he’s not afraid to use it. We also have a great supplier, The Oyster Shed, which sells a bag of 40 smallish unshucked oysters for $21. I remember the days when the same bag was $14. But I digress.

I love oysters with a squeeze of lemon juice, a grind of black pepper and some good buttered sourdough bread on the side. I’m also fond of a Bloody Mary.

This recipe is a bit fussy for me. I made it as written, but only a 1/6 of a batch. Poor John doesn’t drink alcohol and this wasn’t a special occasion, so it was just me.

Because the oysters were small, I put two in each little glass (which left quite a few plain oysters for us to share with lemon juice and bread.

Served just before New Year, which accounts for the fancy decoration.

Lyndey Milan cookbook

Aw shucks (pun intended), it’s a nice enough way to use tomato juice and oysters, but I won’t be doing it again. I still prefer my oysters with a squeeze of lemon juice, pepper and bread. And I prefer a Bloody Mary with celery. You can check out another page-32 recipe here.

Also, I was puzzled by the amount of Worcestershire sauce. One tablespoon is not one fluid ounce. A tablespoon is half an ounce. Because I made a sixth of a recipe, I just used a couple of splashes. 

After I checked this out of the local library, I realised that I had bought it at a second-hand bookstore. Will pass my copy on to someone who might enjoy it.

Poor John and I are off to West Africa again in February. We’ll be on another truck. This time with Overlanding West Africa. You can read a bit about our cooking experiences in the past here.2019


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