Baked onions


baking onions with stock

The new cookbook, 320pp.
by Miriam Polunin
Doubleday, Sydney, 1984
Cooking on pages 132–33

I’ve had this cookbook for more than 30 years and haven’t cooked from it for about two decades. It’s been parked on a bookshelf in our coast house since the early 1990s. That’s where I usually cook old standards that I can make blindfolded, so the cookbooks down here don’t get much attention. But I’m working my way through all my cookbooks, and this one caught my eye.

Page 32 has a recipe for a creamy herb sauce. I might go back and make that, but the recipe on pages 132–33 was too tempting. We had company coming and I had onions that were crying out to be cooked as a side dish.

baked onions


Baked onions

4 large onions, unpeeled
10ml (2tsp) any fat or oil
150ml (1/4 pint) stock
cottage cheese or cheddar cheese, grated, to taste
black pepper or paprika, to taste

Baked onions

Heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) gas mark 2.

Cut the roots from the onions but do not peel them. Sit them in a baking dish, brush them with the oil and pour stock around them.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, depending on size. To test whether an onion is done, squeeze it gently between a finger and thumb, it should give slightly.

To eat, cut back the brown skin and sprinkle the tops with a little cottage cheese or grated cheddar cheese plus black pepper or paprika.

How it played out
This is a no-brainer, but I still changed a few things. I was going to serve these with baked salmon steaks and potato wedges, so I set the oven to 200°C. I then put these in the oven (using chicken stock and olive oil) along with the wedges for about 50 minutes, adding the salmon for the last 12 minutes.
It’s always satisfying when everything for dinner is ready at the same time.

New cookbook by Polunin

Because I cooked the onions at the higher temperature, a couple of the centres popped up, but that was easily disguised with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of paprika. No cheddar or cottage cheese on hand. 

A delicious way to prepare onions—the dinner guests want the recipe! I’ll be making these often when doing a roast or another dish that requires a longish bake.

By the way, I peeled the onion completely for serving, rather than cutting back the skin as shown in the photo in the cookbook.

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Asparagus and quail’s egg salad

quail eggs, lemon, asparagus

Food you can’t say no to, 192pp.
by Tamasin Day-Lewis
Quadrille Publishing, London, 2012
Cooking on page 32

I hadn’t heard of Tamasin Day-Lewis before. Turns out she is a noted English television chef and food critic, and has published a dozen books about food, restaurants, recipes and places. She also writes regularly for The Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair and Vogue. Daniel Day-Lewis is her brother.

Page 32 got my attention because I’d never cooked with quail eggs before, so I checked this out from the local library. It just happened to coincide with springtime in Australia, so asparagus was plentiful and cheap. Quail eggs weren’t.

Asparagus and quail’s egg salad

Asparagus and quail’s egg salad

12 homegrown asparagus spears, trimmed, woody ends snapped off
2 tbsp good, fruity olive oil
salt and black pepper
12 quail’s eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon and a little spritz of juice
1–2 tbs walnut oil, to taste

salad ingredients cooking quail eggs

Cut the asparagus tips from the stalks and keep them separate. Now cut the stalks on the bias into shorter lengths (so that you have a larger cut surface than you would from simply chopping into chunks). They cook more quickly like this and look prettier in the dish.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan and throw in the asparagus stalks. Cook turning, for a couple of minutes, then add the tip (which take less time to cook through) and sprinkle with a little salt. Once the tips have been added, the asparagus will take another 5 minutes or so to cook through, depending on the thickness; test with a skewer. 

While the asparagus is cooking, cook the quail’s eggs; carefully add them to a small pan of boiling water bring back to the boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Drain and briefly hold under cold running water until just cool enough to handle, then peel while still hot. (A bit of a fiddly task, but worth it, and you can always seek help from your fellow diner.) Cut the eggs in half lengthways.

sautéing asparagus asparagus and quail egg salad

As soon as the asparagus is cooked, sprinkle with the lemon zest and remove the pan from the heat. Scrunch over some pepper, add a spritz of lemon juice to taste and trickle over the walnut oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little more lemon juice or oil if needed. Tip the contents of the pan into a serving dish and add the halved quail’s eggs. Serve warm with good home-made bread.

Serves 2.

How it played out
The biggest challenge for this recipe was finding quail eggs. Not found in three standard supermarkets, not at the farmer’s market, not at the poultry shop, I finally found some in a small Asian shop.

The rest of the recipe was straightforward although I cooked the asparagus for a shorter amount time; maybe 4 minutes in all.

Also used a different approach to cooking the quail eggs. This blog has a wonderful, illustrated explanation on cooking quail eggs and I followed the 4-minute approach. Perfect.

Food you can't say no to

I didn’t have any walnut oil, so added some chopped walnuts instead. Oh, and I didn’t have homegrown asparagus!

Totally and completely delicious. I will definitely make this the next time asparagus season rolls around. And I’ll be saving up to buy quail eggs—$5.50 for a dozen.

We ate a lot of eggs when we travelled and camped in Africa. Here’s a post explaining a bit about our cook groups.

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Salsicce (sausages) with white beans and gremolata

sausages, peppers and lemon

Food, Cook, Eat, 256pp.
by Lulu Grimes
Murdoch Books Australia, Millers Point, 2003
Cooking on page 32–33

The inside cover of this book says the recipes are designed for people who enjoy eating in cafés and bistros, and who want to recreate that kind of food at home. It covers dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the chapters are set out by main ingredient.

I like the premise of the book—buy it fresh, cook it simply, eat it now. Every recipe is accompanied by a dazzling colour photo.

Lulu Grimes knows her way around food. She is currently deputy editor of the BBC’s olive. She was previously the food editor; a post she had held since the magazine’s launch in 2003. She has wide experience as a magazine food editor (Food and Travel and Sainsbury’s Magazine), and as an editor for Murdoch books in Australia.

Sausages with peppers


Salsicce (sausage) with white beans and gremolata

3 tablespoons olive oil
6 salsicce cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves smashed
120g (4 oz) chargrilled red or yellow capsicum (bell pepper)
400g (14 oz) tinned cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon zest grated
3 tablespoons parsley chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

chargrilled peppers sausage mixture gremolata mixture

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the salsicce until they are browned all over and cooked through. Lift them out of the frying pan with a slotted spoon and put them to one side.

Put 2 garlic cloves in the frying pan and cook them over a gentle heat until they are very soft. Cut the capsicum into strips and add them to the pan, along with the beans and salsicce. Stir everything together and cook over a gentle heat for 2 minutes to heat the salsicce through. Season well with salt and pepper.

To make the gremolata, smash the remaining two garlic cloves to a paste, with a little salt, in a mortar and pestle. Mix in the lemon zest and the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, stir the gremolata through the sausages and beans and then finish the dish with a sprinkling of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 2.

How it played out
Unless you’re Italian or a very knowledgeable cook, I bet you were like me and had no idea what salsicce were.
It’s the Italian word for sausages. To help you, I added the word sausages to the title. When I read the recipe, my first thought was how could a recipe for two people need 6 salsicce/sausages?

Maybe salsicce are really small, but I didn’t really know what to look for, so I settled on three fat chorizo sausages, which meant there were plenty of leftovers. Plus a bit of spice.

Otherwise I followed the recipe.

Food, Eat, Cook cookbook

This is a lovely and easy-to-make recipe that is perfect for busy nights. 
I’m sure you could add or subtract ingredients to suit family preferences—different vegetables or sausages (thin pork would be especially good). You could even pile the finished mixture on a burger bun, slices of toast or rounds of flat bread.

The gremolata is a wonderful and refreshing addition.

By the way, three chorizo sausages gave us more than enough to serve three or four. We had enough for our dinner and plenty more for a couple of lunches. 

Very happy, very delicious and very likely to make again.

News flash
My dear friend, Ken, who is well-travelled and a brilliant cook, has let me know that salsicce are typically small, thin Italian pork and fennel sausages. Thanks Ken!

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Chilli eggs

tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell pepper

Delia’s complete cookery course, 640pp.
by Delia Smith
BBC Books, Random House, London, 2008
Cooking on page 32

As usual, I was snooping through someone’s bookcases and found this classic edition of this Delia Smith cookbook first published in 1978. I could hardly count all the editions and reprints there have been, so I gave up trying. This edition has been completely revised and updated but, according to the back cover, still contains all the established favourites.

I’m not sure whether page 32 is an oldie, but it definitely looks like a goodie with ingredients our family loves.

Chilli eggs

Chilli eggs

4 fresh eggs
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, de-seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp hot chilli powder
½ tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp oregano (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil)
few drops of tabasco
14 oz tin Italian tomatoes (400 g)
4 oz Cheddar cheese (110g), grated
salt and freshly milled black pepper
freshly chopped parsley, to serve

cheese, tomatoes, parsley chilli eggs baking

Heat the oil in the frying pan and fry the chopped onion, pepper and garlic gently for about 10 minutes. 
Stir in the chilli and cumin powders and add the oregano along with a few drops of tabasco. Mix thoroughly and then add the contents of the tin of tomatoes.

Turn up the heat a bit and let the mixture cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced to a thick pulp. Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper.

Carefully break the eggs into the pan on top of the mixture. Sprinkle the cheese all over the eggs and cover the pan with a close-fitting lid or a suitably sized plate. Lower the heat and simmer gently for about 10–15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Alternatively, you can place the pan under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and the eggs are just set (7 minutes for soft eggs, 10 for well done).

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of bread or toast to dunk into the juices. Serves 2.

Delia's Complete Cookery Course

How it played out
There were three of us this morning, so I made a batch and a half, using six free-range eggs. My only other change was to use a fresh chilli because I was completely out of chilli powder. And I used a tin of tomatoes, plus two fresh ones.

The tomatoes reduced to a pulp within 8 minutes, and the final stovetop simmer was too long for our liking. We prefer slightly runnier yolks and these were firmly set after 10 minutes. I think 8–9 minutes would have been enough.

A single batch of the sauce would have been enough. We had sauce leftover—enough for two on toast tomorrow.

Absolutely delicious way to serve eggs. We loved them for breakfast. Add a salad (and a bit of bacon) and they’d make a great dinner on a lazy day. Also easy to adjust the amount of chilli and final cooking time to suit your preferences.

We’ve had some fabulous breakfasts on our travels. A particular favourite was the amazing egg dish—arepas con heuvos—in Cartagena, Colombia. I really must try to make them at home.

Chilli eggs with toast

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Chocolate truffles

Cream, butter, chocolate

Christmas cooking with kids, 128pp.
by Annie Rigg
Ryland Peters and Small, London, 2010
Cooking on page 32

Christmas isn’t far off and I bought this cookbook as inspiration for cooking with grandchildren—even though I don’t have any! 🙂

Annie Rigg is a long-time baker and this is one of two cookbooks she has written that focus on recipes that kids can make by themselves or with some adult assistance.

The contents cover gifts, edible decorations, cakes, desserts and party fun, as well as some baking basics. The instructions are clear and simple, and geared for younger chefs. The photographs, by Lisa Linder, are colourful and make each recipe look so tempting.

Chocolate truffles

Chocolate truffles

50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75 g light brown soft sugar
150 ml double cream
175 g dark chocolate

150 g milk or dark chocolate, chopped
chocolate sprinkles
cocoa powder
edible silver balls
chopped nuts (hazelnuts or flaked almonds)

chocolate truffle mixture rolling chocolate in hand rolling ball in sprinkles

Ask an adult to help you put the butter, sugar and cream in a saucepan over low heat. Leave until it comes to the boil and the sugar has melted.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and tip into a heatproof bowl. Carefully pour the melted butter mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny. Leave to cool, then cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge until it’s firm.

Making one truffle at a time, scoop a teaspoonful of the chocolate mixture and roll quickly between your hands into a ball. Place on the prepared baking tray.

For the toppings, get an adult to help you put the extra chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave on a low setting. Stir very carefully until it has melted. Leave to cool slightly. Sprinkle each of your chosen toppings onto a separate plate.

Scoop a teaspoonful of the melted chocolate into your hand and roll one truffle at a time into it to coat completely.

Roll in one of the toppings. Repeat with the remaining truffles and leave to set on the baking tray before serving or packing into a pretty box.

How it played out
I know this is meant for kids, but I had to laugh at some of the instructions. ‘Get an adult to help you’ to do anything is probably not an effective approach these days. I can just hear most kids say, ‘I can do it myself’. I have a 10-year-old nephew who could make these without any help from me. He’d have probably figured out how to avoid the mess we made.

chocolaty hand

Chloe (who house and dog sat during our recent travels) and I had a bit of a challenge making these. Actually Chloe (who also loves to cook) did most of the work, but we were both completely stymied when we got to the second-last step that told us to scoop ‘a teaspoonful of the melted chocolate into your hand and roll one truffle at a time into it to coat completely’. There was no way we could do this (see the photo at right), so we simply skipped this step, and went straight to rolling the chocolate balls/truffles in various sprinkles.

By the way, the day I shopped for sprinkles, the only ones in stock were Dr Oetkers. They cost a fortune—about $4 per tiny bottle.

Christmas cooking with kids

These truffles are absolutely delicious but, unless you are a professional chef, don’t think for a minute that you can roll the balls in a teaspoon of melted chocolate in your hand. It just can’t be done.

I’ve given this cookbook to my friend, Lyn, who has two grandchildren and a son who is a former chef. She’s on her way to Sydney now to join them for Christmas. I hope the book gets a lot of use in future.

Happy holidays
Whatever holidays you observe, I wish you the happiest ones ever.

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Chicken and asparagus pasta salad


Fast pasta, 400pp.
tested by Woman’s Day Kitchens
Bauer Media Group, Sydney, 2017
Cooking on pages 32–33

It’s summer in Australia and this week has been especially hot with temperatures approaching 34°C (93°F), so the goal has been to cook meals that are light and quick to make. I try not to turn on or even approach the oven unless I need to bake a loaf of bread.

We love pasta and this book is loaded with tempting recipes. Pages 32–33 were particularly tempting because it’s our asparagus season, and the recipe offered a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken or take advantage of a large already barbecued chicken. Better still—a perfect way to use up some leftover turkey.

chicken and asparagus pasta salad

Chicken and asparagus pasta salad

500g macaroni
250g asparagus, trimmed, chopped coarsely
3 cups (480g) shredded cooked chicken
200g button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

1/3 cup (80g) light sour cream
1/2 cup (150g) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

button mushrooms Dressing for pasta salad Chives and dressing

Cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling water, uncover, until just tender; drain. Rinse under cold water; drain. 
Meanwhile, boil, steam or microwave asparagus until just tender; drain.

Make dressing. Combine ingredients in a small bowl or jug.

Place pasta and asparagus in large bowl with dressing and remaining ingredients; toss gently to combine.

How it played out
I already had a good amount of leftover chicken from making this page-32 recipe, so it was easy to assemble all the ingredients. The biggest task was to head to the garden to cut some chives.

I debated whether to sauté the mushrooms, but this was a salad, so I left them raw, which was probably best.

I used normal sour cream, my homemade mayonnaise (recipe here) and a little extra lemon juice. Also stirred the chives into the dressing. I thought that would give a better distribution.

Fast Pasta cookbook

This recipe sure lives up to the book’s title. I was able to get a yummy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. Served with a bean salad and a green salad. It was equally nice warm and at room temperature (we enjoyed leftovers the next day). It makes 6–8 serves depending on how hungry your eaters are.

By the way, I’m sure you could vary the ingredients using, say, turkey and green beans, so I hope this is useful recipe for you in the aftermath of holiday festivities. I know I’ll be making it again soon.

Posted in Main dish, Pasta, Poultry, Salad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Garden greens and chorizo soup

broccoli, onions, asparagus

Will and Steve: home cook, aspiring chef, 224pp.
by Will Stewart and Steve Flood
Harlequin Mira, Sydney, 2016
Cooking on page 32

When Will Stewart and Steve Flood won our national My Kitchen Rules in 2015, they were the first all-male team to take the title.

The two met when they both moved to Australia as employees of the same English investment bank. As their friendship grew, they found themselves bonding over their mutual love of good food. That’s just as well, because when they were later made redundant, Steve lined them up to do battle in My Kitchen Rules.

They now work full-time in the food industry on recipe development, food photography, styling, cooking classes and corporate catering.

Page 32 is loaded with ingredients I love.

Soup of greens and chorizo

Garden greens and chorizo soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large head of broccoli, florets separated
12 spring onions, finely chopped
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
16 asparagus spears, finely chopped
2 cups frozen peas
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
juice of 1 lemon
1⁄2 cup thickened cream
3 chorizo sausages, cut into 1cm thick slices
coriander leaves, to serve

broccoli, asparagus and onion peas cooking green veggies cooking chorizo soup of garden greens

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan over medium–high heat. Add the broccoli florets and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the spring onion and the remaining butter and olive oil and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the asparagus, peas and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the white wine and flambé. To flambé, tip the pan carefully away from you but towards the open flame, allow the vapours to ignite and keep the pan at arm’s length. Allow the alcohol to burn off naturally before you continue cooking.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and blitz the vegetable mixture with a stick blender until smooth. Alternatively, you can place it in a blender and puree. Add the mint, coriander, lemon juice and 1⁄2 cup of cream, stir and season to taste.

Fry the chorizo in a dry frying pan on high heat until golden brown, roughly 2 minutes on each side.

Pour the soup into four serving bowls, top with the chorizo, and add a few coriander leaves to garnish.

How it played out
I made this mostly as written. By chance, I had everything on hand except fresh asparagus spears, so I had to use tinned ones. Luckily, I had a large tin hiding in the back of the cupboard (25 per cent extra at the same price). Used frozen peas too.

Of course, I couldn’t get the flambé action to happen. I tried and tried, but in the end just had to let the wine cook off without me tilting the pan. No way to tell if this affected the final taste, but at least I didn’t set my arm on fire!

Used a stick blender to purée the mixture and then added the cream, lemon, seasonings and fresh herbs. Finally topped with chorizo sausage slices that I cut on an angle and cooked slightly longer than 2 minutes a side.

Will and Steve cookbook

From the outset, I wondered whether the mix of greens in this recipe would work together. I shouldn’t have worried because the combination was brilliant. Chorizo slices are the perfect addition to this recipe.

We really loved this soup. I made it on a chilly day, but can imagine being enjoyed on warm day too.

Despite the recipe’s name, not one ingredient came from my garden. But I urge you to try it. If you do, let me know if you liked it, what the weather was like and whether you could use your garden produce! 

Poor John and I are nearing the end of our latest jaunt—it will be good to be home for Christmas. We won’t have any snow in Australia for Christmas, but you can check out the gorgeous snow we saw in Iceland.

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