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.

Posted in Stew/soup, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Stir-fried squid with garlic and chilli

limes, chillies, garlic, ginger

Kylie Kwong: Lantern Cookery Classics, 144pp.
recipes by Kylie Kwong
Penguin Group (Australia), Melbourne, 2012
Cooking on page 32

This book is part of the Lantern Cookery Classics series published by the Penguin Group. Each book features popular recipes for a much-loved Australia cook or chef. As far as I can tell, there are 14 books in the series. 

My dear friend, Maggie, gave me this (and another book from the series) when she was getting rid of stuff in anticipation of a move from Yass to Adelaide. Thank goodness, she decided to stay in Yass, and wonderful that she gave me the cookbooks!

As an aside, I already own several of Kwong’s cookbooks and found that this recipe originally appeared on page 134 of her Simple Chinese Cooking. I’ve already cooked from page 32 of that book and you can see that recipe here.

Stir-fried squid with garlic and chilli

Stir-fried squid with garlic and chilli

600g squid, cleaned and scored (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
4 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 large red chillies, finely sliced on the diagonal
2 tablespoons of shaohsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
9 spring onions finely chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 limes, halved
2 large red chillies, finely sliced on the diagonal, to garnish

squid, garlic, spring onions, chillies stir-fry ingredients stir-fried squid

Heat half the oil in a hot wok until the surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the squid and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add remaining oil to the hot wok, toss in the remaining squid and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Return reserved squid to wok, with ginger, garlic and chilli and stir-fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly to ensure garlic does not burn. Add shaohsing or sherry, water, sugar and salt and stir-fry for 20 seconds.

Toss in spring onion and stir-fry for a further minute or until squid is just cooked through. Finally, add lime juice and remove from heat.

Arrange squid on a platter, garnish with chilli and serve immediately with lime halves.

How it played out
I was cleaning out the refrigerator yesterday and noticed a 500-gram pack of pineapple-cut squid in the freezer. Oh yippee, I’ve been hanging out to make this recipe. Other than being 100 grams short, I followed all the instructions, using the shaohsing wine.

As you can imagine, it took longer to cut all the vegetables, than it did to cook the squid. When you count it up, the entire cooking time is less than 5 minutes.

This dish was complete perfection—absolutely sensational. I think it could quickly convert non-squid lovers. We were all stunned by how tender the squid/calamari turned out, and impressed that 4 chillies didn’t produce too much heat. 

I’m whizzing out the door to buy more squid. Oh, and 500 grams of squid and two largish salads were plenty for three people.

Posted in Fish and seafood, Light meal, Main dish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Banana bread

Banana, eggs, cinnamon

Home food: all your favourites with a twist, 400pp.
edited by Gordana Trifunovic
Murdoch Books, Sydney, 2003
Cooking on page 32–33

This is one of many cookbooks given to me by exchange students who have brought so much joy to our family and home. Whether they stayed with us for one month or 12, I did my best to teach them all some basic recipes.

This cookbook is a good all-rounder that covers dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, as well as a chapter on the cooking basics.

Page 32 is in the breakfast chapter.

Banana bread with ice cream

Banana bread

3 ripe bananas, well mashed
2 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
250 g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
180 g (3/4 cup ) caster (superfine) sugar
75 g (2 1/2 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped

Eggs and zest batter in tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Grease a 17 x 8 cm (7 x 3 in) loaf tin.

Combine the bananas, eggs and orange zest in a large bowl. Sift in the flour cinnamon, salt and bicarbonate of soda, mix, then add the sugar and walnuts.

Mix thoroughly, then tip into the prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

To serve, eat warm or allow to cool, then toast and serve buttered.


How it played out
No need to change a thing with this recipe, except that I used lemon zest in place of orange because that’s what I had on hand. The baking time was perfect.

Home food cookbookI made this in the afternoon to take along to a friend’s place for an after-dinner dessert. It went perfectly with some vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Being an accommodating guest, I left the rest of the loaf with them to enjoy the next day for breakfast.

A lovely version of banana bread. I especially liked the addition of the lemon zest, cinnamon and walnuts. I understand that young Jack gave it a complete thumbs up!

Poor John and I are travelling this month, and enjoying lots of different kinds of bread. Breakfasts have been quite varied, but we had some sensational ones in Finland and the Baltic States.

Jack and banana bread

Jack tackles a slice of banana bread

Posted in Baking, Bread, Dessert, Fruit, Nuts, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Warm eggplant salad


eggplant, tomatoes, garlicMoroccan: food for friends, 192pp.
recipes by Tess Mallos
Murdoch Books Australia, Millers Point, 2005
Cooking on pages 32–33

Eight years ago we spent a month travelling overland in Morocco. Our journey took us into the Atlas Mountains, throughout the countryside, to the beaches and to all the main cities.

As a result, we were able to enjoy the many facets of Moroccan cuisine, which has its foundation in Berber cooking. It is also features Arabic, Persian and Andalusian influences.

The ingredients are some of my favourites—lemon, cumin, olives, eggplant and more. I already own eight cookbooks covering Moroccan and North African dishes, but the recipe on page 32–33 was so tempting I had to check this book out from the local library.

warm eggplant salad


Warm eggplant salad

2 x 450g (1 lb) eggplants (aubergines)
3 tomatoes
olive oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro), finely chopped leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 preserved lemon (or fresh lemon slices, to serve)

spices and preserved lemons salted eggplant slices skinning tomatoes

Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of skin along the length of each eggplant. Cut the eggplants into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick slices, sprinkle with salt and layer in a colander. Leave for 20–30 minutes, then rinse under cold running water. Drain, squeeze the slices gently, then pat them dry with paper towels.

Peel the tomatoes by first scoring a cross in the base of each one using a knife. Put in a bowl of boiling water for 20 seconds, then plunge into a bowl of cold water to cool. Remove from the water and peel the skin away from the cross—it should slip off easily. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a frying pan to a depth of 5 mm (1/4 inch). Heat the oil and fry the eggplant slices, in batches, until they are browned on each side. Set aside on a plate. Add more oil to the pan as needed.

Using the oil left in the pan, cook the garlic over low heat for a few seconds. Add the tomato, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper and increase the heat to medium. Add eggplant slices and cook, mashing the eggplant and tomato gently with a fork. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. When the oil separates, drain off some if it seems excessive; however some oil should be left in as it adds to the flavour of the dish. Add the coriander and lemon juice and season with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt if necessary. Tip into a serving bowl.

If using preserved lemon, rinse under cold running water and remove the pulp and membrane. Chop the rind into small pieces and scatter over the eggplant or, alternatively, garnish with slices of fresh lemon. Serve warm or at room temperature with bread.

Serves 6–8.

browning eggplant browned eggplant warm eggplant salad mix

How it played out
Have I ever mentioned that my mother hated eggplant (aubergine) and my dad loved it. Every now and then, he’d buy one and it would mysteriously disappear. Maybe he cooked and ate it on the sly, but I once saw my mother kick an eggplant off the back porch. Just saying!

Anyway, I was in my 20s before I ever remember tasting eggplant. It was in that wonderful Middle Eastern dip, babaganoush, and I loved it. Our kids love it too, so I made this as a dip for daughter Petra’s farewell party before she moved to Vietnam.

Okay, okay, I’m getting around to how it played out.

Basically I followed the recipe. For the record, I salted, layered and rinsed the eggplant slices, and skinned the tomatoes—steps I often skip. My only change was to double the amount of preserved lemon. In my opinion, you can’t have too much lemon.

I served this ‘dip’ with mountains of flat Lebanese bread, which had been brushed with oil, sprinkled with lemon pepper or zaatar, and baked in a moderate oven until crisp.

Moroccan cookbook

My mother loved dips and chips. I think this recipe might even have converted her to eggplant. I know my dad would have loved it. All the party goers loved it too, and polished it off quick-smart. I was glad I’d left some at home so we could enjoy it the next day.

Poor John and I have recently finished a Trans Mongolia Railway trip from Beijing in China to St Petersburg in Russia. It’s been a mega journey, lasting 19 days (not all on the train) and covering more than 8000 kilometres.

If you have the time, it would be great if you could check out some of the journey. Here’s a look at some of the Mongolian landscapes.

We’re in Iceland now and more travel posts to come on that too.

eggplant salad as dip

Posted in Side dish, Snack, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Herbed roast chicken

butter and herbs

The Kylemore Abbey cookbook, 155pp.
edited by Mary Dowling
Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1997
Cooking on page 32

I was lucky enough to buy this book at Kylemore Abbey when my friend, Maggie, and I were travelling around the world in 2003. Ireland was at the top of her must-visit list. She’s Irish through and through and a redhead too.

The 70-room abbey was originally a castle commissioned by Dr Mitchell Henry. He and his wife, Margaret, had nine children by the time the structure was completed in 1871.

Since the early 1920s, the abbey has been in the hands of Benedictine nuns. The building and grounds are absolutely gorgeous and we had a great time exploring inside and out. Someday I’ll dig out the photos from that trip, which was before I had a digital camera.

The cookbook includes a history of the abbey. In addition to chapters on various core ingredients such as dairy, it has special chapters devoted to Christmas and Easter.

Page 32 is from the chapter on meat and poultry.

herbed roast chicken

Herbed roast chicken

1 x 900 g–1.4 kg/ 2–3 lb chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
110 g/4 oz/ 1/2 cup butter
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
150 ml/ 1/4 pint/ 2/3 cup chicken stock

butter mixture spreading butter mixture buttering chicken

Wash and dry the chicken and season well.

Mix the herbs, butter, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl and season. Loosen the skin around the neck of the chicken and, as far as possible, the breast, without tearing the skin. Spread the herb butter under the skin and all over the top of the chicken.

Place on a roasting pan. Cover the chicken in foil and roast in a preheated hot oven (200°C/425°F/Gas 7) for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, baste the chicken with the juices and brown in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish, allow the juices in the roasting pan to settle, remove the fat, add the chicken stock, return the pan to the heat for a minute and pour the remaining juices over the chicken when serving.

When carving, ensure that each serving has a little of both leg and breast. Serve with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

How it played out
This is one of those recipes I approached with a bit of dread. It’s that short, intimidating phrase ‘without tearing the skin’. Ugh. But guess what, I managed to loosen the skin and spread in the butter mixture without wrecking the skin. Yay me!

Luckily, I have most of the called-for herbs growing in the garden so, all in all, this was a very easy recipe to bring together.

Kylemore Abbey Cookbook

The pan juices and chicken stock made a very nice light gravy. I didn’t need to worry about making sure there was leg and breast meat on everyone’s plate. We have very definite dark or white meat lovers here.

Served with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

This delivers a lovely moist roast chicken. Much easier to make than I anticipated once I didn’t destroy the skin. The herb butter makes this recipe. I’m sure you could alter or increase the herbs you use but, whatever you do, don’t leave them out.

Poor John and I are on a marathon trip from Shanghai in China to Reykjavik in Iceland. Most of this has been overland on the Trans Mongolian Railway. I’m posting this from Stockholm Sweden. If you have time, check out my travel blog.

herbed roast chicken

Posted in Main dish, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Fried chanterelles

sautéing leeks

Traditional Latvian cooking, 64pp.
translated by Terëze Svilane
Zvaigzne, Rigä, 2015
Cooking on page 32–33

When we were travelling in Latvia earlier this year, it took me a long time to find a local cookbook in English but I had success in a souvenir shop in Riga, the capital.

We had some fabulous meals in Latvia, including the specialty dish of grey peas with vegetables. Page 32–33 calls for an ingredient we can’t get in Australia, but I managed to find a suitable work-around.

fried mushrooms

Fried chanterelles

500 g chanterelles
4 leeks
2 tablespoons butter
seasonings: salt, ground black pepper, caraway seeds
500 g potato

mushrooms and potatoes mushrooms, potatoes and leeks

Sort the chanterelles and rinse. Leave the little ones intact, the larger ones should be cut in half. Slice the white part of the leeks lengthwise into 4 parts. Heat up the butter in a pan, fry the leeks and remove from the pan. Put the chanterelles in the pan, cook until the juice begins to run, then all salt, pepper, caraway and continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed. Then add the cooked leeks to the mushrooms.

Boil up the potatoes. When ready, sprinkle over with finely chopped dill, add to the mushrooms in the pan and heat up again.

How it played out
Apparently Australia has its own variety of chanterelle, but it is uncommon. In all the 35 years that I have lived here, I’ve never seen one in the markets and never seen them advertised. Haven’t seen a European one either.

An internet search described chanterelles as having a meaty, woodsy flavour. As it happened, I found portobello mushrooms on special, so gave the recipe a try with those. Possible substitutes also include porcinis, morels, creminis and shiitakes.

Other than using a different mushroom, I followed the recipe as written. By the way, I did a tiny edit on the wording for the method, purely for clarity.

Latvian cooking

We love mushrooms and I often make a mushroom casserole that calls for lots of sour cream and no potatoes. This recipe makes an equally delicious side dish that is probably lower in fat, but not in flavour. I served this with crumbed salmon and a green salad. Will definitely make again and try it with other types of mushrooms. Will also try the grey pea recipe, using a substitute ingredient.

We had some amazing stops during our time in Latvia. Check out our visit to the abandoned military town of Skrunda or the quaint town of Kuldīga.

Posted in Light meal, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Corn chowder

corn capiscum onion herbs and spices

The Vegetarian Adventure, 320pp.
by Karen Meyer
James Squire Color Printing, Richmond, 1983
Cooking on page 132

This is one of many cookbooks I bought at one of the regular Lifeline Book Fairs. There is such a great deal on the last day of each fair—a brimming bag of books for $20.

I haven’t been able to find out what Karen Meyer is doing these days, but she has written a collection of vegetarian cookbooks. Other titles are Green Cuisine, The Artful Vegetarian and The Green Gourmet. This is the only book of hers that I own.

We’re big fans of soup, so page 132 offered a good temptation. Meyer says this recipe hails from the southern states of America.

Corn chowder

Corn chowder

2 tablespoons oil
2 large onions, diced
2 green peppers, finely diced
2 large potatoes, diced small
2 cups sweet corn kernels (uncooked, cut straight off the cob)
4 cups of milk
salt and pepper
pinch of paprika
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of cumin
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

herbs and spices sautéing veggies simmering corn chowder

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry a few minutes. Add the green peppers and cook another couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and fry for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer carefully for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables seem cooked. Add extra water if the soup becomes too thick.

A little grated cheese or a few toast cubes can be sprinkled over the top of each bowl. To make the toast cubes, sauté diced cubes of bread in garlic butter until golden, or spread the bread cubes on a tray and toast for 15 minutes in a moderate oven.

How it played out
This recipe calls for ingredients that I usually have on hand, so it was an easy choice to make for lunch on a chilly afternoon.

I pretty much followed the recipe, although had only red bell peppers (capsicums). Also used way more than a pinch of the herbs and spices. I figured those little pinches would be undetectable.  It was a good call on the herbs and spices because the finished soup had just the right balance of flavours.

I sprinkled the finished soup with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

This was an easy-to-make, colourful and filling lunch. If you happen to be short of milk, I think you could use half milk and half vegetable stock. Of course, then it wouldn’t be quite such a chowder.

The vegetarian adventure

As this post goes public, Poor John and I have just travelled across Russia from Irkutsk in Siberia to Moscow.

I got this set up while I was on the train and it started to snow heavily. I suppose it’s what you can expect in Siberia at the end of October.

We’re in Moscow now—after four days on a train—and I hope to post some scenery pics on my travel blog. Would love it if you can drop by if you have the chance.

Posted in Dairy, lunch, Stew/soup, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments