Just meatloaf

Meatloaf mixtureI quit sugar: fast family meals, 138pp.
by Sarah Wilson
Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2017
Cooking on page 32

This is the first time I have cooked from one of Sarah Wilson’s books. My effort is long overdue. Wilson is from Canberra (my town) and one of six children. Our daughters went to primary school with some of her siblings.

Wilson has worked in many aspects of the media, including more than four years as editor of the Australian Cosmopolitan magazine. She is best known for her I quit sugar books and for urging Australians to reduce their sugar intake and lead a more healthy and active lifestyle. She closed her I quit sugar business in early 2018.


Just meatloaf

1 kg beef or lamb mince
2 tablespoons almond meal or breadcrumbs
1 carrot, grated
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
English mustard, to serve (optional)

Meatloaf recipeMethod
Lightly grease a standard loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 200°C. place mince, almond meal, carrot, onion, cumin, garlic, eggs and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.

Transfer mixture to the greased loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes. Top with tomato slices and bake for another 10 minutes. Cover loaf with foil for 10 minutes to rest. Gently remove from tin and slice. Serve with green salad or steamed greens and English mustard. Serves 8.

How it played out
I made this as written using beef mince, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 50 grinds of black pepper. The only way to mix something like this is to get your hands dirty, so I got to work massaging the ingredients in a large bowl.

While the oven heated, I sat down to type the recipe. Oops! That’s when I realised I forgot to add the almond meal. So I dumped everything back in the bowl and massaged that in too. The bake times were spot on. Served with potatoes wedges, steamed asparagus and green salad.

Family meals cookbookVerdict
A great version of meatloaf. Loved the addition of ground cumin. I generally think of meatloaf as being sugar-free, but adding ketchup or barbecue sauce would change that.

Travel and fires
If you ever visit my travel blog, you’ll know that much of eastern Australia has been on fire.  To date, 29 people have died, almost 6000 homes and buildings have been lost, more than a billion animals have died and almost 19 million hectares (46 million acres) of land have been burnt. Here’s a rundown of the unbelievable devastation.

Miraculously, our beach house in South Rosedale is still standing. North Rosedale (separated from us by a timber foot bridge) has been wiped out. Only 14 of about 80 houses there have survived. We hope to check on our place soon and report back. In the meantime, we’ve offered it to someone who lost their place. They moved in today.


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Chorizo and thyme fougasse (bread)

Yeast and cookbookBaking made easy, 240pp.
by Lorraine Pascale
HarperCollinsPublishers, London, 2011
Cooking on page 32–34

I own two of Lorraine Pascale’s cookbooks, but this is the first one I’ve cooked from. It was her debut cookbook and it certainly reflects her many years of experience as a patisserie chef. Baking is her thing.

The 100 recipes in this book cover breads, muffins, biscuits, pastries, cookies, cakes, tarts and pies. Chapter 1 is breads and that’s where I landed.

Chorizo and thyme bread

Chorizo and thyme fougasse

500g (1lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
250–300ml (9–11fl oz) water
leaves of 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
50g (2oz) ready-to-eat chorizo sausage, very finely chopped
vegetable oil, for oiling
3 tbsp milk, for brushing

cooked chorizo chorizo on doughMethod
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6. Dust a large baking tray with flour.

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and mix together to combine. Make a large hole in the centre of the flour mix, then pour in the water, just enough to make a dough which is loose and easy to knead, but not too sticky. If it feels tight like Blu-tack, then add more water. As you knead it, the dough will become less sticky, so if you can add all the 300ml (11fl oz) your loaf will be much lighter with a lovely open texture.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 5 minutes or in an electric mixer fitter with a dough hook. Add the thyme and knead for a further 30 seconds, or until it is well combined. Put half of the chorizo in the middle of the dough and then fold the edge around to cover it and knead for an extra minute.

On a floured surface, shape the fougasse into a ball making sure the top of the ball is taunt and smooth. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a rough oval shape. Using a very sharp knife, or razor blade, carefully cut slashes in the loaf to look like a fern, then with floured hands open up the slashes wide, as they will close up a lot when the bread is left to double in size.

Chorizo and thyme bread

Push the remaining chorizo into the top of the dough, then cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm (you may need several pieces). Leave to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove the clingfilm, brush the dough with milk and place in the oven. Throw a couple of handfuls of ice cubes in the bottom of the oven or spray the oven with water before closing. This will keep a crust from forming too quickly on the bread, which would prevent the bread from rising nicely. Alternatively, put a roasting tin with water in the bottom of the oven instead.

Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, a beautiful golden brown and smells wonderfully cooked. It will come off the tray once fully cooked too.

It is tough to top the taste of warm bread straight from the oven, slathered in oodles of good butter.

Chorizo and thyme breadHow it played out
I make at least two large loaves of bread every week, but I generally follow no-knead sourdough recipes. I was drawn to this because 1) I love chorizo and 2) I really don’t mind kneading dough.

I followed the recipe using about 275ml of water, thyme from our garden, and chorizo that I cooked first (I didn’t have ready-to-eat chorizo). You can see from some of the the photos that I didn’t push the chorizo far enough into the dough, so most of it fell off after I baked the bread. This was especially a nuisance when I wanted to make toast.

But I learned a great tip. In all my years of bread making, I’d never thought to toss ice cubes into the bottom of oven to create the moisture. Will definitely do that in future. I generally spray or put a tin of water in the bottom of the oven. 

Lorraine Pascale cookbookVerdict
The bread itself has a lovely texture and flavour, but it is way, way, way, too short on chorizo. Some slices had no chorizo bits at all. So while that’s the only change I’d make, I think it is a biggie.

I recommend eating this bread within two or three days. As an aside, the name fougasse refers to the shaping of the bread.

Poor John and I are currently travelling in Taiwan. We haven’t had much bread (I made this loaf before our trip), but we’ve eaten loads of noodles. I’ll write about some of those amazing meals soon. In the meantime, here’s a post from Azerbaijan, when a waiter made me clean my plate.

Chorizo and thyme bread

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Peppery pecans and noodles

Coriander and sambal oelekThe complete Christmas cookbook, 256pp.
no author named
Bay Books, Millers Point NSW, 2006
Cooking on page 32

This book was first published in 1999, so I’m celebrating its 20th year in print. It has virtually every recipe you could need to observe Christmas and the surrounding days.

Chapters cover appetisers and party food, roasts, vegetables and salads, fish and seafood, puddings and desserts, cakes and baking, and edible gifts. I was also pleased to see three special chapters covering a vegetarian Christmas, menus, and what to do with leftovers.

Peppery noodles and pecans

Peppery pecans and noodles

115 g/4 oz shelled pecan nuts
50 g/2 oz fried egg noodles
50 g/2 oz butter
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

pecans and egg noodles stirring pecans and egg noodles ready to bake pecans and egg noodlesMethod
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Line a 33 x 28 cm/13 x 11 inch baking tray with foil. Combine the pecan nuts and egg noodles in a medium-size mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, pour it over the nuts and noodles and stir well. Spread the mixture over the base of the prepared baking tray and bake, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes, or until golden.

Combine the soy sauce, hot pepper sauce and coriander in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the nuts and noodles and mix thoroughly. Spread out on kitchen paper to cool. Store in an airtight container until required.

Note: This recipe is also suitable for frying. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan or a preheated wok. Add the pecan nuts and egg noodles and fry, stirring and tossing briskly, for 5 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown and coated all over with butter. Remove from the heat, add the soy sauce, hot pepper sauce and coriander and mix thoroughly. Spread out on kitchen paper to cool completely before storing.

How it played out
Hey, it’s coming up to Christmas and you can get unexpected guests, so I made a double batch. I used sambal oelek as the hot pepper sauce.

I followed the oven method and wondered if the 30 minutes of baking time might be too long, but it was perfect.

Christmas cookbookAfter baking the nuts and noodles, I tipped them back into a large bowl, then poured over the sauce and stirred like mad to get everything well covered.

I made these in the late morning. They were quite nice when they were warm but by 5pm, and after they were well cooled, they were sensational. I’m now eating them by the spoonful and really must go to bed before I eat them all. Love this recipe. Good night.

P.S. Confession: the fried noodles were about a year out-of-date and this gave them a reason to live.

Poor John is a sucker for snacks, especially roasted pecans, walnuts or almonds. Here’s a  post about a fruit and nut shop we found in Armenia.

pecans and fried egg noodles

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Salted caramel and pecan blondies

flour, chocolate, sugarsThe tin and traybake cookbook: 100 delicious sweet and savoury recipes, 228pp.
by Sam Gates
Robinson, London, 2018
Cooking on page 32

Sam Gates got the idea for this cookbook when she was moving back to the UK and trying to reduce her mountain of kitchen paraphernalia. She found tins especially worth hanging on to, so the book utilises the six most popular shapes—square, round, traybake, roasting, loaf and muffin.

The recipes were tested by an ‘army’ of willing volunteers, using their favourite baking tins. They cooked in the tin shape stated in the recipe, but rather than worry about a particular size, they used whatever was in the kitchen cupboard.

salted caramel and pecan blondiesSalted caramel and pecan blondies

120g salted butter, roughly chopped
230g light brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
180g plain flour
50g white chocolate, chopped
50g dark chocolate, chopped
40g pecans, chopped

butter, crème fraîche
, salt caramel sauce and chocolatesFor the salted caramel sauce
100g caster sugar
50g butter, chopped into cubes
75ml crème fraîche
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes

First, make the sauce. Tip the sugar into a small saucepan and add 4 tablespoons of water, swirling it around to cover the sugar. Bring to the boil very slowly until the sugar has dissolved, and let it bubble for 8–10 minutes until it turns golden.

Take the pan off the heat and add the butter a cube at a time, whisking as you go. When all the butter has been absorbed, whisk in the crème fraîche and salt and leave to cool. Taste to see if it needs any more salt, then pour into a hot, sterilised jam jar and store in the fridge. If you want to serve the sauce warm, stir in a little milk or cream.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper or a greaseproof liner.

sugar and water boiling blondies in panIn a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until it has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and mix in thoroughly. Add all of the chocolate and half of the chopped pecans. Stir once, then pour the mixture into the tin and sprinkle with the remaining pecans. Bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

To serve, warm 3 tablespoons of salted caramel sauce and drizzle in diagonal lines over the top.

How it played out
As instructed, I made the sauce first. I followed the recipe and have one bit of advice. Don’t make the butter cubes (mentioned in the second paragraph of the method) too small. I did and found that the sauce was hardening too quickly, so I had to put it over heat to finish stirring in the butter.
Otherwise I followed everything else. I used a 9-inch square tin. 

Tin and Traybake CookbookConfession: I’ve made this twice now, using the original batch of caramel sauce. That part of the recipe makes a lot, so I reckon you could use it for three or four batches of blondies. Just refrigerate or freeze the leftover sauce and warm in the microwave (20 seconds) when you need it.

I am horrified by the huge amount of brown sugar—230 grams defies my imagination—but these blondies are sensational. Seriously, seriously divine.

Go on, make them. You know you want to. They’ll make a wonderful treat for Christmas.

salted caramel and pecan blondies

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Parsleyed carrots

simmering carrotsKaribu: welcome to the cooking of Kenya, 234pp.
by Ann Gardner
Kenway Publications, Nairobi, 1992
Cooking on page 132

‘Hodi’ in Swahili, the national language of Kenya, means ‘May I come in?’ The reply is ‘Karibu’ meaning ‘Yes, you are welcome.’

Kenya is a melting pot of cultures. This cookbook is a welcome into the kitchens of the country’s fisherman, housewives, city business people, villagers, up-country farmers, European settlers, Arab and Africa traders, and Indian merchants.

The recipes have been contributed by 20 different cooks, who come from places as far apart as America and Pakistan. Each chapter features a cook’s history, along with a selection of their national dishes. Page 132’s recipe is from Englishwoman, Philippa Corse, who was born and reared in the farming district of western Kenya. She shared 13 recipes that were prepared for a Christmas dinner on safari.

parsleyed carrots

Parsleyed carrots

2 pounds carrots, scraped and sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Karibu cookbook

Karibu cookbook

Cover the carrots with salted water and add the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Before serving, drain the carrots, add the parsley and melted butter, toss, and coat the carrots well. Serves 10 to 12.

How it played out
There were four of us for dinner so I made half a batch, using 500 grams (1 pound) of carrots. I started with cold water, so it did take almost 20 minutes for the carrots to be tender. I started checking for tenderness after 12 minutes because of the smaller quantities. Even though there was a lot of sugar in the recipe, I liked the fact the sugary water was drained off before serving. 

A lovely simple recipe for carrots and likely to appear on our Christmas table. That said, I’m glad page 132 didn’t have Corse’s much more drawn-out recipes for stuffed roast turkey, sugar-coated boiled ham or Christmas pudding. But I tempted by her brandy butter on page 136.

P.S. I’m so glad I bought this book in Nairobi in 2009 when we spent almost a year travelling in Africa. We were back in Africa for three months this year and you are most welcome to check out my travel blog. Join me on a village walk in Senegal.
Karibu cookbook and carrots


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Cold sesame noodles

Soy, tahini, sesame oil Sliced cucumbersAmerica: the cookbook, 768pp.
by Gabrielle Langholtz
Phaidon Press, London, 2017
Cooking on page 32

This book has answered a lot of questions for me. Every time I go back to the USA, I’m intrigued by a whole range of dishes I never knew when I was growing up in Nebraska. Where did they come from? Now I have an idea.

Many recipes seem to be novelties—fried mozzarella sticks. Many others are region-specific and have now spread across the country. I still remember the first times I saw menus featuring buffalo wings (from New York), biscuits and gravy (from the South) and Philly cheesecake (Pennsylvania), to name a few.

Gabrielle Langholtz travelled the country collecting typical (and not so typical) recipes from all 50 states, as well as stories and essays from guest contributors. I was amazed to find a Nebraska recipe (page 248) for Sudanese greens cooked with peanut butter. It was great to learn that my home state has welcomed a refugee community of South Sudanese who brought their culinary skills with them.

Page 32 is from New York. A recipe for buffalo wings is on the same page. And I’ll take this opportunity to wish Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the USA.

Cold sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles

1 lb (455 g) cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 oz (340 g) fresh Chinese egg noodles, cooked and chilled
1/2 cup (50 g) chopped scallions (spring onions)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Lime, sambal oeleck and gingerMethod
In a large colander, toss the cucumbers and salt to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes. Press well to drain and squeeze dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, Sriracha, ginger, sugar and pepper. Thin the sauce with hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it is easy to whisk and similar in consistency to crêpe batter. Gently stir in the noodles, then the cucumbers until well combined. Serve garnished with scallions (spring onions) and sesame seeds.

America, cookbookHow it played out
This is such a simple recipe that I followed the instructions and quantities—I often make half a batch. My tahini was fairly runny, so I didn’t need to add many tablespoons of water to thin the sauce. But to be honest, I forgot to write down how many spoons I used.

My noodles were the kind that you can pour boiling water over and leave for 5 minutes before draining and chilling. Served with lamb chops and green beans.

This really works as a cold dish. It helps that I am a sucker for sesame flavours. I think of this as a noodle salad. In future, I’d add an extra tablespoon of lime juice, but then I’m also a sucker for sour.

Cold sesame noodles

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Chicken and peanut Panang curry

peanuts, lime, onion, cucumberThe complete chicken cookbook, 256pp.
edited by Jane Price
Bay Books, Sydney, 2003
Cooking on page 232

This is the third or fourth recipe from Jane Price that I have featured on the blog. I bought this book years ago to keep at the beach house. It’s loaded with easy to make chicken recipes and good for inspiration.

Chapters cover soups, snacks, starters, salads, stir-fries, roasts, casseroles, curries, pasta, rice, marinades and more.

I could have cooked from pages 32 or 132, but I was keen to use my kaffir lime leaves. It is the only edible plant we have growing at the beach.

Wonder why I haven’t included a pic of the cookbook cover? Years ago, we went out and I left the cookbook on the floor at the beach house. One or both dogs ate the cover. I suspect the smaller one. He liked to chew.

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

1 tablespoon oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1–2 tablespoons Panang curry paste
1 cup (250 ml/4 fl oz) coconut milk
500 g (1 lb) chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-size pieces
4 kaffir lime leaves
1/4 cup (60 g/2 fl oz) coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (80 g/2 3/4 oz) roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup (15 g/1/2 oz) Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup (80 g/2 3/4 oz) chopped fresh pineapple
1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced
chilli sauce, to serve

curry ingredientsMethod
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the onion and curry paste to the wok and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil.

Add the chicken and kaffir lime leaves to the wok, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken with a wire mesh strainer or slotted spoon. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, or until it is reduced and quite thick.

Return the chicken to the wok. Add the coconut cream, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the peanuts, basil and pineapple. Serve with the cucumber on the side, some chilli sauce, as well as steamed rice. Serves 4.

sliced cucumbersHow it played out
Made a special trip to the Batemans Bay to buy Panang curry paste and Thai basil. The paste was easy enough to find, but the basil eluded me. I wasn’t all that surprised because Asian herbs aren’t always available in small beach communities. The only reason I had kaffir lime leaves was because I grow them at the beach house.

I followed the method, using almost 3 tablespoons of the curry paste and ordinary basil. I skipped the pineapple. It just doesn’t work for me in savoury dishes.

The recipe was super easy to make and the cooking times were perfect. Served with steamed rice and two salads—one with mango and the other with pear, rocket (arugula), walnuts and blue cheese.

Friend and neighbour, Lyn, joined us for dinner. The main pic isn’t very flattering, but we thoroughly enjoyed the curry, which was mild heat-wise, yet full of flavour. In fact, the flavours from all the dishes came together beautifully. The peanuts gave a wonderful crunch and we didn’t miss the pineapple.

Chicken and peanut Panang curry

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