Smokey pulled pork with rhubarb butter

Rhubarb butter

Cookery school: meat, 208pp.
by Joanna Farrow
New Holland Publishing, Sydney, 2012
Cooking on pages 64–65 (32 x 2)

Lizzie was visiting from Sydney, so I took her to one of Canberra’s must-see destinations—Canty’s Bookstore in Fyshwick. She was keen to buy a cookbook filled with recipes for slow cooking. We found plenty of those, but then she said I especially want something that features meat.

I’d already spotted this one and now I’m sorry I pointed it out to her. She bought it and promptly took it home with all those gorgeous recipes. But she promised to do a guest post from it. As it turns out, Lizzie has made this recipe twice and forgotten to photograph it.

So I made it for her when she came to Canberra this week for a conference.

Here it is. It’s from pages 64–65 because 32 and 132 had no recipes.

Smokey pulled pork with rhubarb butter

Smokey pulled pork with rhubarb butter

4 cloves garlic, crushed
handful of thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) pork shoulder

For the rhubarb butter
400 g (14 oz) rhubarb
good pinch of ground cloves
75 g (2 1/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
75 g (2 1/2 oz) unsalted butter

butter and herbs sugar and cloves cooking rhubarb
Pork crackling
pulled porkMethod
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Pull some of the thyme leaves from the stalks until you have about 1 tablespoon. Mix the thyme with the garlic and a little salt and pepper. Use a small sharp knife to cut lots of deep slits through the pork skin and into the meat. Pack the garlic mixture into the slits.

Scatter the remaining thyme into the tin (pan) and place the meat on top, skin side uppermost. Sprinkle the skin with salt and rub it in firmly. Roast the pork for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 and roast for another 4–5 hours.

While roasting make the rhubarb butter so it has time to chill and thicken. Trim the rhubarb and cut into 1 cm (1/2 in) pieces. Put in a saucepan with 15 ml (1 tablespoon) water, the cloves and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Continue to cook gently until the rhubarb is tender and pulp. Tip into a bowl and slice in the butter. Stir until the butter melts then leave to cool. Refrigerate until needed.

Once the pork is cooked, slice off the crackling in one piece and break it into pieces with a knife or your fingers. Pull the pork into pieces with a knife and fork and serve with the crackling and rhubarb butter.

How it played out
I made a special trip to the butcher’s to get a nice pork shoulder. The choices in the supermarket were either too small or boneless and wrapped in netting. The butcher cut a piece to size and scored the skin to produce a nice crackling.

Luckily I have thyme and rhubarb growing in the garden. The rhubarb plant produces wonderfully thin and tender stalks, and the thyme has a gorgeous perfume.

I followed the recipe and got the roast going first. I made 12 slits in the skin and that was about right for the amount for garlic–thyme mixture I had. The great thing then was that all I had to do was make the rhubarb butter, which took less than 15 minutes, and remember to turn down the oven after 30 minutes. Oh, and I made one tiny change, using only 65 grams of caster sugar rather than the full 75 grams.

Cooking School Meat

Another friend, Caroline, was joining us for dinner and was bringing her sensational potato gratin and mini stuffing balls, so come dinnertime all I had to do was set the table, steam some broccoli and enjoy a glass of wine.

Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow! Now I know why Lizzie has made this recipe twice. It is sensational. The crackling was perfect, and who knew rhubarb butter would be such a perfect accompaniment to a pork roast? It was fun to serve the butter in a small bowl I bought in Mongolia (see top pic).

Three of us enjoyed the leftovers, what little there were, for lunch today. There was no fight over who got the crackling—we ate all that last night.

Posted in Fruit, Main dish, Meat | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments



butter, flour, milk

Nana no hats: Corrie’s nanalicious recipes from yesteryear, 108pp.
recipes by Corrie Lee and edited by Ita Buttrose
CorriLee Foundation, Edgecliff NSW, 2013
Cooking on page 32

In 2008, Tanya Lee started the CorriLee Foundation to stage major events and charitable fundraisers that try to bring together existing charities.

The foundation is named for her paternal grandmother, Corrie Frances Lee. Sadly, that grandmother died this year just before her 97th birthday.

This cookbook is in support of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Research Foundation. All the recipes are by grandmother, Corrie Lee. And the title’s reference to ‘no hats’ means that nana’s ‘restaurant’ doesn’t have, or need to have, hats or stars to indicate quality.

Page 32 is in the chapter called ‘Nana’s specials’. Damper is an Aussie classic.

damper with minestrone


oil spray
2 tbsp butter
¾ cup milk
2 cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt

damper mixture damper dough with knife damper to bake baked damper

Pre-heat oven to 200°C and grease a baking tray with oil spray.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add the milk.

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in milk. Mix with a knife to form the dough.

Turn on to a lightly floured board. Dust top of dough and hands with flour. Lightly knead and shape into a round. Place on baking tray.

Bake for 25–30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

How it played out
I made this damper exactly as written. I even mixed the dough with a knife. In the notes, Tanya Lee said she had no idea why her ancestor did it this way when she was growing up. I don’t either, but I stirred it with a knife anyway.

Lee also recalled that her grandmother baked the damper in the hot coals and ashes of an open fire. I have an open fireplace and a wood stove, but I made this during the summer months, so had no interest in firing up anything except the electric oven.

I took this bread, as well as a batch of minestrone soup, to a friend’s house for lunch. Tam (my friend) has just had her second child and her folks were visiting to support her for the first month. I thought it was a nice way to catch up, with them not having to do too much more than set the table. (I also took a couple of cheeses and a loaf of my homemade rye sourdough bread).

Nana no hats cookbook

The breads and soup (not a page-32 recipe) were great successes. We demolished all of it. I was especially surprised by how cake-like the damper was. Lovely texture and colour, and oh-so delicious with soup.

This will become my go-to recipe when I need bread in a hurry. If you follow this blog, you’ll know that I usually make bread with sourdough starter that takes up to 14–18 hours to mature to the baking stage. This quick fix was very helpful and tasty for me.

Finding new varieties and flavours of bread is one of the joys of our far-flung travels. Have a look at this small bakery—most likely run by mother and son—on a back street in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

baked damper

Posted in Baking, Bread, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Spicy chicken wings

Marinade for chicken

chicken wings

I love spice, 224pp.
by Love Food kitchens
Parragon Books, Bath UK, 2008
Cooking on page 32

As the title says, I love spice, in fact the whole family loves spice. I grew up eating spicy food. Living in Nebraska, most of that was Mexican.

My dad was a guru of hot Mexican food. His favourite restaurant in the entire world was El Matador Cafe near 24th and Farnam in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s not there anymore, but when it was, we ate there often. We parked out the back and entered through the kitchen. Everyone at El Matador’s knew dad. I’m guessing he was their best customer. Dad was a pilot and the restaurant wasn’t too far from the airport. I think he ate lot of lunches there.

Whenever we arrived at the restaurant and even before we ordered, a waitress would deliver two small dishes of hot sauce to the table. She would place one in the middle of the table and one in front of dad, who promptly ate it like soup. I still remember the night a fellow at a nearby table followed dad’s behaviour. He nearly blew his head off. Once he caught his breath, he asked dad how he tolerated that dish of fire.

I think dad said practice.

But, I digress. I had to buy this cookbook to see how good the spicy dishes were. The chapters are titled sizzling, blazing, zesty and fiery. So let’s check out page 32 in sizzling (snacks and light meals).

Spicy chicken wings

Spicy chicken wings

900 g/2 lb chicken wings
11 garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp tequila
1 tbsp mild chilli powder
2 dried chipotle chillies, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, drained and puréed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cumin
pinch of dried oregano
lime wedges, to serve

orange, limes, garlic, tequila spices and chillies marinade mixture

Cut the chicken wings into 2 pieces at the joint.

Place the chicken wings in a non-metallic dish and add the remaining ingredients. Toss well to coat, then cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the barbecue. Cook the chicken wings over hot coals, turning occasionally for 15–20 minutes, or until crisply browned and the juices run clear when a sewer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Alternatively, cook in a ridged griddle pan or under a hot grill. Serve at once with the lime wedges for squeezing over.

How it played out
I haven’t cooked chicken wings for years. As much as I love them, I think all that skin and fat held me back. But hey, I bought the book and figured I had to make the page-32 recipe. Plus, a neighbour gave me a bottle of tequila that had just enough left in it to make the recipe.

I followed the instructions, except that dried chipotle chillies aren’t widely available in Australia, so used two fresh jalapeños.

Left the wings in the fridge overnight to ensure a good hit of spicy flavour, then cooked them in a ridged griddle pan.

Served with a large green salad.

I love spice cookbook

The best news is that I can go back to eating chicken wings. That’s because this recipe uses only 2 tablespoons of oil, and healthy ingredients such as lime and orange juice. Plus I can go easy on the amount of skin I eat.

But seriously, it’s a lovely and easy-to-make dish that would be great for dinner, snacks or party finger food.

If you have a moment, be sure to check out my travel blog.

Posted in Main dish, Poultry, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Marinated cucumbers

parsley, salt, red wine vinegar, oil

The Russian heritage cookbook, 320pp.
by Lynn Visson
The Overlook Press, New York, 2004
Cooking on page 32

Lynn Vission grew up in New York surrounded by Russian food and culture. Her mother is from St Petersburg and her father was from Kiev. Their circle of friends came from all over Russia, many fleeing to the United States before or during the 1917 revolution. In her introduction, she recalls that they ‘discussed food with the same deadly seriousness they devoted to any other topic. To them gastronomy was a creative discipline in no way inferior to painting, music or ballet.’

In her attempt to preserve traditional Russian cooking, Visson collected more than 400 recipes. Many were given to her by friends (their names are noted on the recipe and at the end of the book). Others she adapted from old Russian recipes.

In addition to being a writer, Visson is also a scholar and interpreter. I checked this out of the local library and hope to track down her other food-related books—The Moscow gourmet and The art of Uzbek cooking.

Page 32 has two recipes for cucumbers. I had everything on hand for the second, which came from a person named Catherine Woronzoff.

marinated cucumbers

Marinated cucumbers

3 medium cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2-inch strips
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepperLebanese cucumbers, garlic
chopped parsley

marinating cucumbers

Combine all the ingredients except cucumbers and beat well. Add cucumbers and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Drain and serve on toothpicks or on black bread. Serves 6.

How it played out
We go through a lot of cucumbers. I love the crunch and the fact they are so low in calories. I use them in salads and find them to be a great snack straight out of the fridge.

My cucumbers (a variety called Lebanese in Australia) were on the small side, so I used four. While I hate to waste the goodness of the skin, I caved in and peeled these. Aren’t I cooperative? Also, I used a beautiful French salt, sel de guérande, that daughter Libby gave me for Christmas.

I got about eight 2-inch strips from each cucumber. I tipped these and the pre-mixed dressing into a large container with a lid, and gave it all a good shake. Then popped it into the fridge for the morning.

Served for lunch on my homemade sourdough rye bread—let me know if you want that recipe.

I’m partial to sour and bitter flavours, so the absence of sugar and the use of equal parts of oil and vinegar in this recipe are perfect for me.

Russian cookbook

Others may feel the need to add extra oil or a touch of sugar, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Oh wait, if I decide to serve them as appetisers on toothpicks, I’ll have to slice them a lot more thinly. Otherwise, no change at all.

Given that Libby brought me that amazing salt from France, I thought you might like a glimpse of the French village we stayed in when we visited. Or maybe you want to read about the etiquette of the baguette.

Posted in Appetiser, Light meal, lunch, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Sweet potato cakes

sweet potato mixture

Plenty, 288pp.
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2011
Cooking on page 32

Yotam Ottolenghi is a popular Israeli-born British chef who is known for his superb vegetarian recipes. Plenty is his second cookbook and this is the second time I have cooked one of his recipes. The first one was caramelized fig, orange and feta salad.

He says the recipe here was inspired by the legendary sweet potato cakes he could buy at a small café, Orna and Ella’s, in Tel Aviv during his university days.

As a child, I wasn’t too keen on sweet potato, squash and/or pumpkin dishes, except for pumpkin pie. I think it was because my mother often added brown sugar to what was, in my mind, supposed to be a savoury vegetable dish.

So let’s see how this one turned out.

Sweet potatoes cakes

Sweet potato cakes

2¼ lbs peeled sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 tsp soy sauce
scant ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp chopped green onion
½ tsp finely chopped fresh red chile (or more if you want them hot)
plenty of butter for frying

3 tbsp Greek yogurt
3 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
salt and black pepper

sweet potato, sour cream and yogurt cilantro, lemon and oil frying sweet potato cakes

Steam the sweet potatoes until completely soft, then leave in a colander to drain for at least an hour.

To make the sauce. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients until smooth; set aside.

Once the sweet potatoes have lost most of their liquid, place them in a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (except the butter). Mix everything together, preferably by hand, until the mix is smooth and even; do not over mix. The mixture should be sticky; if it’s runny add some more flour.

Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan. For each cake, use a tablespoon to life some mix into the pan and flatten with the back of the spook to create a not-too-perfect disc that is roughly 2 inches in diameter and 3/8-inch thick. Fry the cakes on medium heat for about 6 minutes on each side, or until you get a nice brown crust. Place in between two sheets of paper towels to soak up the excess butter. Serve hot or warm, with the sauce on the side.

How it played out
Over the years I’ve come to love sweet potatoes, but I still prefer them with a savoury, rather than a sweet, twist.

I love all the ingredients for this recipe, so I made it as written, except that I didn’t bother to soak up the excess butter. Frankly, I didn’t use too much butter to begin with so didn’t feel the need to get rid of what was left.

Ottolenghi plenty cookbook

If you like sweet potatoes, or even if you think you don’t, give this recipe a try. It’s easy to make, nourishing, colourful and delicious. And the sauce is the perfect accompaniment. I bought more sweet potatoes and yogurt today, so we must like it. 🙂

Serve these as a side dish, or make them smaller and serve as an appetiser or a snack with drinks. Use the sauce as a dipper. I reckon everyone will love them.

We love potatoes. Here’s a link to a street-side breakfast stall where we ate wonderful Indian potato cakes. Yummo!

Posted in Dairy, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments


castor sugar, eggs

The country show cookbook, 256pp.
from the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW
New Holland Publishers, Sydney, 2010
Cooking on page 132

This goldmine of award-winning recipes from country shows across Australia belongs to my friends, Denise and Tony. They loaned it to me after Denise made a sensational apricot yogurt cake for the monthly morning teas we have after our gym classes.

The book has six chapters covering the sorts of delicacies one sees on display at country shows (or country fairs as they are called in the USA). There are scones, cakes, pies and tarts, biscuit (cookies) and slices, pickles and relishes, and jams and spreads.

Page 32 has pictures only so I moved on to 132 and Australia’s iconic pavlova, by Wilma Bott of the Barellan Show.

Pavlova with fruit


4 egg whites
1 cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

sugar, cornflour, lemon beating egg whites with sugar shaping pavlova to bake baked, cracked pavlova

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).

Beat eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gradually add castor sugar, beating until dissolved and mixture is thick.

Add the lemon juice, sugar and cornflour and beat on low into the meringue. Place sheet of baking paper on tray and make a circle with mixture to approximately 23cm (9 in). With a spatula work around the circle lifting as you go to make ridge around the pavlova. Bake in oven for 50 minutes. Leave in oven to go cold. When ready to serve, fill with cream and fruit of your choice.

When finished baking, leave the meringue in the oven, with door ajar, to cool completely. If you remove the meringue when it’s still warm it will cool too quickly and may crack or collapse.

How it played out
True confession. I’ve lived in Australia for most of the last 35 years and this is the first time I’ve ever made a pavlova. While Australia and New Zealand disagree on which country came up with this dessert first, everyone seems to agree that it was named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

Earlier this week, I made this as our dessert for company on Australia Day and, yes, I followed the recipe. The mixture didn’t get quite as thick/stiff as I’d hoped, but I didn’t realise that until I was spreading it on the baking pan. I’ll learn.

As suggested, I left the pav to cool in the oven, but it cracked anyway. My friend, Barb, who can make pavlovas in her sleep, says she uses vinegar instead of lemon juice. I don’t know if that makes a difference. They’re both a shot of acid.

Topped it all with whipped cream and thawed mixed berries that were rather juicier than I expected.

country show cookbook

For a first effort, it was pretty good. The dinner guests were most complimentary, but I’ve had better and prettier pavs in the past—Barb’s are especially fine.

Most of all, I was stunned to discover just how quick and easy it is to make a pavlova. Why haven’t I been making them before? I’ll fine-tune this in time.

P.S. Hope you like my retro, pink sugar container. I have a matching set for flour, sugar, rice, tea and coffee. Each one is a different colour. I love them.

Unlike Anna Pavlova, we haven’t spent a lot of time in Russia on our travels. But we have had some memorable experiences from our brief time there—including this one.

Feel free to check out the post I added to my travel blog on Australia Day.

Posted in Dessert, Eggs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Smoky aubergines with lemon and garlic dressing

eggplant salad

A Lebanese feast of vegetables, pulses, herbs and spices, 276pp.
by Mona Hamadeh
Constable and Robinson, London, 2015
Cooking on page 32–33

Poor John had three diplomatic postings in Lebanon—one for language training and two for work. I was along for the second work one. While it wasn’t the best time to be there—during the civil war in the early 1980s—it didn’t hamper our chances to enjoy sensational Lebanese food. The best tabouli, hummus and shish taouk (a chicken dish) I’ve ever had were in Beirut.

So I’m always a sucker for Lebanese cookbooks. This one did not disappoint.

smoky eggplant salad

Smoky aubergines with lemon and garlic dressing

2 large aubergines
1 small to medium onion, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
220g (2 small) tomatoes, chopped
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level tsp salt
a little chopped parsley, to garnish
a little olive oil, to drizzle
lemon wedges to serve

eggplant and cherry tomatoes garlic, lemon, parsley roasted eggplant onion, tomato, eggplant

For a smoky taste, roast the whole aubergines on the flame of a gas hob for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are soft.

When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin then rinse under a cold tap to remove any remaining skin.

Chop the aubergines and place in a bowl. Add the onion, lemon juice, tomatoes, garlic and salt.

Turn out onto a serving dish, sprinkle parsley over the top and drizzle with olive oil.

Cook’s tip
This dish is supposed to have the lovely smoky flavour that cooking over a flame gives, but if you only have an electric hob, you can cook the aubergines in an oven preheated to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 for 20 minutes. Prick the aubergines with a fork before roasting.

How it played out
I was too busy with other things to stand at the stove and roast the eggplants (aubergines) over a flame, turning occasionally, so I popped them in a hot oven instead. They took a little more than 30 minutes to soften.

Then I pretty much followed the rest of the recipe, using parsley and lemon from the garden, and cherry tomatoes and half a largish red onion. Too easy.

A Lebanese feast cookbook

I’ve probably already mentioned that my mother, a home economist, hated eggplant. I have no idea why.

Perhaps she never had anything as tasty as this recipe or the eggplant dip I made a couple of years ago from another page 32. While that recipe wasn’t as nice as my usual Middle Eastern babaganoush dip, I have to say that this salad is excellent and well worth making often.

News flash: Since making this the first time, I’ve made it two more times. Once I had to use limes instead of lemons. Both versions are excellent! It’s a really, really wonderful salad and might be a great way to convert anyone who thinks they don’t like eggplant. I’ve already bought two more eggplants so I make make it again this week.

I’ve not yet written about Lebanon on my travel blog, but I have done several posts on Syria, which shares a border. One of my favourite places in Syria, where we also lived, is the Crusader castle, the Krak des Chevaliers.

eggplant and tomato salad

Posted in Salad, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments