Hugh’s pear, ham and rosemary salad with pecans

pears and pecansThe River Cottage Australia cookbook, 320pp.
by Paul West
Bloomsbury Publishing, Sydney, 2015
Cooking on page 32

River Cottage Australia was a popular adaptation of the English River Cottage series. It was the first time the series had been adapted internationally. English host Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall travelled to Australia to search for an Australian host and mentor them.

Former chef Paul West was chosen to host the show. Over four seasons, he showcased local produce and farming while attempting to live in a self-sufficient manner in Central Tilba New South Wales. The series ended in 2017.

Pear, ham, pecan and rocket salad

Hugh’s pear, ham and rosemary salad with pecans

2 ripe, medium-sized pears
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
lemon juice
salt and pepper
3–4 handfuls of rocket (arugula)
about 30g very thinly sliced air-dried ham, such as prosciutto
50g (1/2 cup) pecans (or walnuts), roughly chopped

pears and rocketMethod
Peel and quarter the pears, remove their cores then slice each quarter into two or three pieces. Put the pear pieces in a bowl, add the olive oil, rosemary, chilli flakes (if using), a little squeeze of lemon juice and a twist of salt and pepper. Gently combine.

Arrange the rocket (arugula) on serving plates, or on one large platter. Place the pear pieces on top, reserving the juices in the bowl. Pull the ham intro shreds and lay these over the pear, then scatter over the pecans or walnuts. Finish with a trickle of the oil, rosemary-spiked pear juices, and serve.

How it played out
I had to buy pears twice for this recipe. Poor John ate the first batch before I had a chance to made the salad.
River Cottage Australia cookbook

Our friend, Caroline, was joining us for dinner the next time, so I recruited her to core and slice (but not peel) the pears. Why waste all that goodness? She chopped the pecans too. I added a sprinkling of chilli flakes, as well as rocket and rosemary from the garden. I also used some very thinly sliced ham that needed to be used up before we started on our current travels in West Africa. 

This is a wonderful, refreshing salad with lots of crunch. Im sure it would be equally nice with walnuts and prosciutto. Feel free to play around with the ingredients.

Very easy to make and beautiful on the plate. You can bet Ill be making it often when we get home. In the meantime, Id love it if youd check out my travel blog.

Pear, ham, pecan and rocket salad

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Cold water iced tea

Tea bagsBarbecue book, 160pp.
Better Homes and Gardens test kitchen
Meredith Press, New York, 1965
Cooking on page 132

Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks are popular throughout the United States, but I rarely see them in Australia. I bought this one for $1. It is one of about seven BH&G books I brought with me when I married Poor John. Given that the book is from 1965, some of the recipes are showing their age. One recipe calls only for luncheon meat (maybe Spam), whole cloves and pineapple preserves.

Page 32 has a photograph so I moved on to page 132. The recipe isn’t made on a barbecue, but is as useful today as it was in 1965.

Cold water iced tea

Cold water iced tea

4 cups cold water
6 tea bags

cold water iced teaMethod
Fill a one-quart jar with cold water. Add tea bags and cover. Chill in the refrigerator 12 to 18 hours or overnight.

Remove tea bags and pour tea into tall glasses filled with ice cubes or crushed ice. Offer juicy lemon or lime wedges and sugar to taste. Trim glasses with fresh mint sprigs if desired. Makes about 4 to 6 servings.

How it played out
My tea bags were extra strength tea bags, so I used 4 rather than 6, but otherwise followed the recipe. The resulting tea had a beautiful dark colour and strong flavour. Poor John liked it straight and I watered mine down a bit. Lime and mint were great additions, but I forgot to take a pic after adding them. Duh!

Barbecue cookbookVerdict
It’s great to find such an easy recipe for making iced tea, especially unsweetened tea. Poor John and I aren’t big on sugar in coffee or tea, so we never buy pre-bottled tea.

Poor John and I are travelling overland in West Africa. The trip started in Ghana and well finish in April in Senegal. We havent had iced tea yet, but were looking forward to pamplemousse (a grapefruit drink common in the French-speaking countries of West Africa. Would love it if you follow along on my travel blog.

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Potatoes with lemon dill butter

Red potatoesSteaming: great flavour, healthy meals, 96pp.
by Brigid Treloar
New Holland Publishers, Sydney, 2008
Cooking on page 32

This cookbook has the first steamed recipe I have shared on this blog. Steaming is such a gentle and healthy way to cook.

The technique is thought to have started in China in the 11th or 12th centuries BC. The British Museum has an early example—a two-part bronze steamer.

Brigid Treloar has been a freelance food consultant for more than 20 years and has written eight cookbooks. In this one and in addition to recipes, Treloar explains the equipment needed for steaming (I have three steamers), methods and tips, and common basic ingredients.

Chapters cover recipes for appetisers, vegetables, rice and grains, meat and poultry, seafood, and desserts.

Potatoes with lemon and dill

Potatoes with lemon dill butter

1 1/2 pounds (700 g) unpeeled baby potatoes, washed
1–2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1–2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or parsley
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a bamboo steamer or steamer basket. Partially fill a wok or pot with water (steamer should not touch the water) and bring to a rapid boil. Put steamer over the water, cover and steam until the potatoes are tender, 12–18 minutes, depending on size. Potatoes are done when easily pierced with a skewer. Toss the potatoes with the butter, lemon rind and dill or parsley. Sprinkle with pepper. Serves 4–6.

How it played out
It was just Poor John and me for dinner so I used 350 grams of potatoes. The ones I had weren’t all that small, so I cut them in half. I put my bamboo steamer over a pot of boiling water and the potatoes were done in about 18 minutes.

steaming cookbookI’m glad the recipe gave parsley as an alternative to dill. No dill on hand, but plenty of parsley in the garden. That said, I reckon you could use any chopped herb you like.

Served with a small piece of steak, corn on the cob and roasted tomatoes.

Such a straightforward and delicious recipe. The lemon and butter made this dish special, and it was so easy to steam the potatoes. I look forward to working my way through the recipes in this book.

Poor John and I are travelling through West Africa until early May. Hope you’ll drop over to check out my travel blog.

Potatoes with dill lemon butter

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Chicken and pea traybake

leeks, peas, vermouthAt my table: a celebration of home cooking, 288pp.
by Nigella Lawson
Chatto and Windus, London, 2017
Cooking on page 132–33

Nigella Lawson is one of the goddesses of home cooking. The recipes in this book are the foods she says she has always loved cooking and eating. She has no claim to being a professional cook and, in the introduction, she says most recipes don’t require technique, dexterity or expertise.

She goes on to say how important it is to have a table in the home—a table ‘to live around’. She uses the example of the NASA astronauts who asked for a table to be added to missions even if food and plates had to be held down with velcro.

Page 32 has a photo of prosciutto, so I moved on to 132–33.

Chicken and pea tray bake

Chicken and pea traybake

750g frozen petit pois (baby peas)
400g leeks (trimmed weight), cut into approx. 3cm slices
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 x 15ml tablespoons (60ml) dry white vermouth
2 x 15ml tablespoons regular olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, plus more for sprinkling
small bunch dill (approx. 25g) torn into pieces
8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan, and clatter the frozen peas into a large roasting tin, followed by the leeks, garlic, vermouth, 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 teaspoons of sea salt flakes and most of the dill. Turn everything together in the pan—breaking up any large clumps of the frozen peas—until well mixed. I advise you to wear CSI gloves for this, just to stop you getting frostbite, though you will still feel the cold.

Chicken and peasArrange the chicken thighs, skin-side up, on top, then drizzle them with a little olive oil and give them a good sprinkling of sea salt flakes, before roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, give the peas a small stir or tamp down, so that the few that are sitting on the surface and drying out a little are submerged in the liquid. Don’t do the same to the leeks, however, as the bits that are peeking out will become desirably caramelised in the heat. Put back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, by which time the peas and leeks will be soft, and the chicken tender and cooked through, its skin golden and crisp.

Tear off the remaining dill fronds, and scatter over the top on serving, perhaps with some simply steamed new potatoes to soak up the pea and chicken juices. Serves 4–6.

Chicken and peasHow it played out
There were just the two of us tonight, so I made half a batch. I adjusted the ingredients slightly. I had 500 grams of baby peas (petit pois) and 600 grams (20 ounces) of boneless. skin-on maryland pieces. Marylands are a combo of chicken thighs and legs. The shops didn’t have bone-in thighs. Also, I visited three shops before I found a decent amount of dill.

Otherwise I followed the recipe, although cooking times were a bit shorter than specified. The first bake took 40 minutes and the second took 20. By then, everything was well cooked. Also, I didn’t feel the need to wear gloves to break up the peas.

Nigella Lawson cookbookVerdict
Lawson always manages to come up with delicious recipes, and this is no exception. It was incredibly easy and quick to put together, and equally easy to cook.

This is a perfect dinner-party dish. Bring it together, throw it in the oven, check a couple of times and serve. My photos show it in the pan and on the plate, but it could easily be transferred to a platter for serving.

I’m keeping this one up my sleeve for busy days and dinner parties. Served with mashed potatoes. By the way, Poor John was very impressed by the crispy skin. Me too.

Poor John and I are currently travelling in West Africa. Internet is patchy and I may take some time to reply to any comments. Would love it if you can take time to check out my travel blog.

Chicken and pea tray bake


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Ricotta cheesecake

ricotta and cream cheeseCakes in a mug, 94pp.
by Candice Clayton
New Holland Publishing, London, 2015
Cooking on page 32

Candice Clayton says she has an insatiable sweet tooth and lover of comfort food. To help satisfy her cravings, she’s developed these recipes so she doesn’t have to make an entire cake, when she just needs a slice or two. Also, she’s not that fond washing up.

Even though cakes in a mug have been popular for some time, this is the first one I have ever made.

Ricotta cheesecake in a mug

Ricotta cheesecake

1 dessert spoon (30g/1 oz) cream cheese
1 dessert spoon (30g/1 oz) ricotta cheese
1 dessert spoon (15g/ 1/2 oz) caster sugar
vanilla essence or extracts (to taste)
cinnamon sugar (to taste)
1 egg

Combine cream cheese, ricotta and caster sugar in a small mug and stir with a small spoon to make a paste.
Add vanilla and cinnamon sugar to taste and mix through. Whisk 1 egg in a separate mug if possible and fold into the mixture well. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Microwave for 2 minutes.

adding egg to cake mix cake in a mugOption alert
This recipe is a great way to use up left over ingredients from other recipes and everyone loves a ricotta cheesecake. Add a handful of berries to the mixture to change the flavour. To make larger, double the cream cheese, ricotta and caster sugar.

How it played out
This recipe looks deceptively simple, but I had to make it three times before I had photographable success.

My first cup was too small (even though it said use a small cup). But my big mistake the first two times was microwaving on high.

So I revisited the cookbook and discovered in the introduction that, unless otherwise specified, all recipes should be microwaved at 900W. Geez, it would have been helpful if that instruction had been added to every recipe. Once I got the power right, the recipe was very easy to make. I topped the finished cake with a sliced strawberry.

Cakes in a mug cookbookVerdict
I made this three times in two days. I ate two of them and Poor John ate one. Even with mistakes it is darn tasty.

Poor John and I head to West Africa today. We’ll have eight weeks travelling overland (back of a truck and camping) through Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea Sierra Leone and Senegal. I wonder what fruit will be widely available? Would love it if you follow along on my travel blog. Here is a post about cook groups.

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Tomato and bread salad with anchovies and capers

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Ottolenghi simple, 310pp. by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth Ebury Press, London, 2018 Cooking on page 32 I’m delighted to share another guest recipe. This time from Chloe. These days it is rare for me to buy … Continue reading

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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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