Tandoori fish with mint relish

mint relish mixture

Sizzling barbecues, 144pp.
by Reader’s Digest kitchens
Reader’s Digest (Australia), Ultimo NSW, 2012
Cooking on page 32–33

For fuss-free cooking, not much beats a barbecue. That’s why I grabbed this at the recent Lifeline Book Fair.

This cookbook seems to be part of a Reader’s Digest series that covers various cooking styles, cuisines and core ingredients

This volume has a range of recipes for the barbecue hotplate, grill rack, wok burner and rotisserie. I thought it was great that the dishes went beyond meat options to include vegetables and fruit. So what’s on page 32?

Tandoori fish with mint relish

Tandoori fish with mint relish

4  white fish fillets (125 g each), such as red snapper, bream or barramundi
2 teaspoons sunflower oil

2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch garam masala
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper

Mint relish
1/3 cup (20 g) finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon seeded and finely chopped fresh green chilli
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon caster sugar

spice mixture fish in marinade cooking fish

To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garam masala, garlic, ginger and paprika, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the fish in a shallow non-metallic dish, rub in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 1½ hours.

To make the mint relish, mix the mint, chilli, garam masala, lemon juice and sugar together and add salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until required.

Lightly oil a barbecue hotplate or grill rack then preheat to medium–high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and, using your fingers, gently wipe off any excess marinade.

Cook the fish on the hotplate or grill rack over direct heat for about 5 minutes each side, or until cooked through. Serve hot with the mint relish to one side. Steamed rice or wild rice is a good accompaniment.

How it played out
Readers’ Digest books spell out everything so clearly. I made the marinade first and got the fish—bream purchased on special at the market—in the fridge so the flavours could blend. The mint relish came next. I had mint from the garden and a chilli from a friend’s garden.

Then it was a simple matter of cooking the fish. I did this indoors on a lightly oiled ridged hotplate. I made a bit of a mess of the fillets when I tried to lift them from the hotplate. Maybe a little more oil next time!

Served with a mixed bean salad, another page-32 recipe.

Tandoori fish

The fish on the plate may not have won a photo beauty contest, but the flavour was very nice. That said, there was nothing about it that could be called tandoori, except that it was reddish in colour.

If I want tandoori flavours, I’ll be looking for a different, more spice-laden recipe. If I decide to re-use this one as a tandoori option, I’ll be adding a lot more cayenne and garam masala at the very least, and probably a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander. Maybe some turmeric too. Would also increase the chilli and garam masala in the mint relish.

Sizzling barbecues cookbook

But I readily admit that we’re big-time spice and chilli lovers so if you prefer milder flavourings this should be perfect as is.

One of the best Indian tandoori dishes I’ve ever had was a dish featuring chunks of paneer that we ordered in a small restaurant called Friends, in the northern Indian town of Mussoorie.

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Mixed bean salad

Green and yellow beans

Shortcuts: more than 200 recipes for busy cooks, 184pp.
The Australian Women’s Weekly kitchens
ACP Books, Sydney, 2010
Cooking on page 32

This handy spiral bound book is filled with tips and recipes for cooks who are time-poor and short of inspiration. There are plenty of useful hints like using frozen chopped onions or other pre-cut vegetables and herbs. And other tips such as noting how quick it is to cook couscous and vermicelli. There is also advice on shopping and storage.

Recipes cover soups, salads, barbecues, things to do with bread, stir-fries, roasts, dessert and baking. Many pages have two recipes and each recipe has a photo.

Page 32’s recipes are for salads. I made the first one.

Mixed beans with fish

Mixed bean salad

250g (8 ounces) green beans, trimmed
250 g (8ounces) yellow beans, trimmed
60g (2 ounces) butter, chopped
1/3 cup (45g) finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

Hazelnuts Colourful beans

Boil, steam or microwave beans until tender; drain. 
Combine warm beans with remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Serves 4.

How it played out
I chose this recipe because a friend gave me fresh green beans from her garden and I’d already bought yellow beans on special on the market.

I was a little short, having only 190 grams of each kind of bean, so I cut the butter back to 50 grams and slightly reduced the nuts, parsley and lemon rind. I steamed the beans for about 5 minutes.

The hazelnuts were roasted at 135°C (275°F) for about 15 minutes. I let them cool for about 5 minutes and then rubbed them vigorously in a towel to remove the skins.

Served with tandoori fish with mint relish, another page-32 recipe.

Shortcuts cookbook

We almost always get the recommended five serves of veggies every day and this was a great addition to my repertoire.

I rarely have two kinds of beans on hand, so I’ll probably keep this recipe as one I might serve to company. It’s pretty, colourful and a bit out of the ordinary. The nuts add a classy touch. Highly recommended.

We’ve had some great meals on our travels including a few very special dishes in northern India.

Posted in Nuts, Salad, Side dish, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Asparagus—grilled with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar

Asparagus dressing

The only recipes you’ll ever need, 4 ways to cook almost everything, 144pp.
by Tony Turnbull
Quadrille Publishing, London, 2013
Cooking on page 32

I love the premise of this book. Every two-page spread focuses on a single ingredient or type of dish—such as lamb chops and couscous, or savoury pancakes and salad dressings. It then gives four relevant recipes for each option.

Not surprisingly, I had a difficult time deciding which asparagus recipe to make. The other three covered a soup, a version poached with hollandaise sauce, and a stilton tart.

I went for this recipe because I had everything on hand.

Asparagus with Parmesan

Asparagus—Grilled with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar

750g asparagus, trimmed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
freshly shave Parmesan


Rub the asparagus with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and place on a hot griddle pan or under the grill, turning occasionally, until cooked—about 5 minutes depending on the thickness.

Transfer to a plate. Mix together the remaining oil and the vinegar and drizzle over the asparagus. Scatter with some shavings of Parmesan. Season. Serve.

How it played out
Made this using three bunches of asparagus (or about 500 grams after snapping off the ends). It couldn’t have been easier and there was no reason to change a thing.

The only recipe you'll ever need

But I did approach the oil slightly differently. Instead of rubbing the oil onto the asparagus, I poured the oil onto a large dinner plate and then rolled the asparagus over it. Just seemed the make more sense, and be less messy.

I love asparagus in all its forms. This is a great recipe, and carries the Parmesan well. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Go on, try it. I dare you. And did you notice that the asparagus recipes are on the cover of the book?

Posted in Cheese, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments

Hot German potato salad

potatoes boiling onion and celeryNorth Hill cookery II, 136pp.
by members and friends of North Hills Church of God
Morris Press, Kearney Nebraska, USA, 1987
Cooking on page 32

Spiral-bound, paperback community cookery books are often a goldmine of recipes from talented home cooks. Most creations are classics and a few turn out to be disasters.

Some recipes are tricky to make because the ingredients are available only in the country where the cookbook was produced. Sometimes the measurements are challenging to figure out. How big is a gob of butter?

Luckily, page 32 had a wonderful recipe, by a Ginger Martindale, that called for readily available ingredients and included easy-to-decipher measurements.

By the way, I can’t remember how I came to have this book, but Morris Press, which specialises in fundraising cookbooks, was just up the road from where I lived in Nebraska. Or perhaps my mother bought it on one of her trips to Phoenix Arizona, which is where the church is.

Hot German potato salad

Hot German potato salad

4 1/2 lbs, peeled and boiled potatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped onions
3 T. flour
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c sliced radishes
9 slices bacon, diced
3/4 c. chopped celery
2 tsp. salt
1 c. cider vinegar
1/3 c. fresh parsley, cut up

Australian bacon cooking bacon

cooking onion and celery

simmering sauce
Boil potatoes. Fry bacon until crisp in large skillet. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cook onion and celery in bacon fat until tender. Stir in flour and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in water, vinegar and sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Stir in parsley and bacon. Cut potatoes in thin slices. Toss potatoes with bacon mixture in 3 1/2-quart casserole.

Cover and bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Stir in radishes. Great hot—and even good as a cold leftover.

How it played out
Petra’s cricket team was in charge of catering for both teams at a recent game. I figured it was the perfect chance to make a recipe that called for 4 1/2 pounds of potatoes, so volunteered to contribute.

It’s a completely straightforward recipe, so I more or less followed it. I didn’t bother peeling the potatoes—too fiddly a step and why lose the nutrition in the skin? Cut the sugar back to just 1/3 cup (which was plenty) and used cornflour as a thickener because I knew at least one of the players couldn’t have gluten.

You’ll see from the photo above, just how large our Australian bacon rashers (slices) are, so I used 5 instead of 9.

North Hills cookery
Super easy to make and a brilliant recipe for a crowd. At least 25 people enjoyed a serving.

I was surprised by the number of people who said they hadn’t eaten radishes for ages, even though they loved them. Many also commented on how nice it was to taste the cider vinegar.

And even though the recipe title refers to ‘hot’ potato salad, this worked just fine at room temperature.

Will definitely keep this on my list when cooking for a crowd. I’m sure it could easily be halved or doubled.

If you’re a fan of potatoes, check out my travel blog for one of our memorable roadside meals in India—a great breakfast of potato cakes.

German potato salad

Posted in Salad, Side dish, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Blueberry smoothie

blueberries, raspberries, banana, chia seeds

Everyday delicious, 208pp.
by Izy Hossack
Hardie Grant Books, London, 2016
Cooking on page 32–33

A self-taught cook, Izy Hossack became fascinated with food at a young age, learning the basics from her American–Italian mother.

In 2011 and as a young teenager in London, Hossack started her food blog—Top with cinnamon. Since then she has published her first cookbook, with the same name as her blog. Plus her blog has twice been a finalist in Saveur’s Best Food Blog awards.

This is the paperback version of her first cookbook. It has chapters on breakfasts, sides, mains, sweets snacks, desserts and staples.

blueberry smoothie

Blueberry smoothie

125 g (4 1/2 oz/1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
a handful of raspberries, blackberries or grapes
1 banana, peeled
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
125 ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) cloudy apple juice
a handful of ice

Blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately.

Note: You can blend in a handful of spinach leaves with the other smoothie ingredients if you’re looking for a nutritional boost. It doesn’t change the flavour at all but will add some iron and more fibre.

Tip: For easy morning prep, place the berries, chopped banana and chia seeds in a sandwich bag and freeze. That way you just have to blend the contents of the sandwich bag with the apple juice and ice for a really quick breakfast.

Everyday delicious cookbook

How it played out
I made this as written, using raspberries and with an aim to share it with my daughter, Petra. Oh wait, I used a food processor because I don’t have a blender.

Anyway, the nicest aspect was to be able to use apple juice crushed by the same people who deliver milk to our front door. Can you believe that we are among the small group of people—probably anywhere in the world—who still get their milk home delivered? Also, I like the tip about freezing the ingredients beforehand, but I didn’t do that.

I don’t make smoothies very often, but this was a refreshing option. I was especially pleased to get some use out of my big container of chia seeds. Petra, who makes smoothis often, says she still prefers ones that are dairy-based.

Please check out my travel blog. Here are some of the fruit juices we had in India.

blueberry smoothie outside

Posted in Beverage, Breakfast, Fruit | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

My breakfast bowl

tomatoes, spinach, lemon, spring onions

Feel good food, 304pp.
by Valli Little
HarpersCollinsPublisher, Sydney, 2015
Cooking on page 32

Born into a family of UK restaurateurs, Valli Little was inspired to pursue a career in the food industry.

She started with formal training at Le Cordon Bleu in London, and went on to work as a food consultant and caterer. Since 2001, she has been food director of Australia’s highly successful delicious. magazine. In that role, she creates up to 60 recipes a month that are inspired by her travels and love of food. She is a frequent guest on national radio and author of numerous bestselling cookbooks. Her main goal is to offer recipes that are imaginative, easy-to-follow and fail-safe.

Page 32 has two eggy breakfast recipes. I made the first one.

My breakfast bowl

My breakfast bowl

½ cup (140g) low-fat thick Greek-style yoghurt
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbs lemon juice
2 cups (380g) cooked white quinoa
1 cup baby spinach leaves
½ cup basil leaves
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 avocado, halved lengthways, sliced
200g mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
4 poached eggs
1 tsp sumac

eggs, avocado, basil Yoghurt and lemon zest Cooked quinoa

To make the dressing, combine the yoghurt. lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Season and set aside.

Divide the quinoa among serving bowls, then top with spinach, basil, onion, avocado and tomato. Top each with an egg, drizzle with yoghurt dressing and sprinkle with sumac to serve.

Serves 4.

How it played out
When a recipe is so straightforward, the best thing to do is follow the instructions. So I did, except for using full-fat yoghurt.

I was able to use basil from our garden, tomatoes from a friend, and lovely fresh eggs laid by backyard chickens that belong to another friend. I had fairly good luck getting the poached eggs to turn out a little runny.

Served with lightly buttered slices of my homemade sourdough olive and rye breads.

This is my idea of the perfect breakfast. I could eat two servings of it every day by myself, and would be tempted to sprinkle on even more sumac.

Feel good food cookbook

Quinoa adds a lovely texture, and the spinach, avocado and tomatoes give you multiple serves of fruit and veg in one hit. Feta cheese and olive lovers—yes, I am one—could even add some of both. I’d opt for kalamata olives.

By the way, I think this dish is wonderful with or without the egg, and the photo below shows how tasty and beautiful it looks egg-less.

We love trying new breakfasts on our travels. Check out the legendary start to a day we had in Cartagena, Colombia.

My breakfast bowl without egg


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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