Roast pumpkin and feta bruschetta

spices and cheeseShared plates, 192pp.
by The Australian Women’s Weekly
Bauer Media Books, Sydney, 2015
Cooking on page 32

The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine now comes out monthly, but it churns out new cookbooks all the time. This one is a lead up to Christmas without actually focusing on the holiday.

The premise is that these recipes can be passed around and shared with others—a sort of communal table.

I liked the quote in the introduction. ‘This is the simple idea behind shared plates: everyone gets to try everything…it’s like a buffet, but you don’t have to get up from your chair.’ So let’s check out the offering on page 32.

Pumpkin and feta bruschetta

Roast pumpkin and feta bruschetta

1 long French bread stick (300g)
cooking-oil spray
1.5kg (3-pound) butternut pumpkin
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, roasted, chopped coarsely
180 g (5 1/2 ounces) Persian feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

pumpkin/squash pumpkin/squash with spices feta and sourdough breadMethod
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Trim rounded ends from bread. Cut bread into 30 x 1.5cm (3/4-inch) thick slices; spray both sides with cooking oil. Place bread on oven trays. Bake for 8 minutes or until brown lightly. Cool on trays.

Meanwhile, cut pumpkin lengthways into four slices about 3cm (1 1/4-inch) thick. Cut each piece into 5mm (1/4-inch) thick slices.

Place pumpkin, chilli, seeds and oil in a large bowl; toss well to combine. Arrange slices on two oven trays lined with baking paper. Roast for 25 minutes or until just tender.

Top bread with 3–4 pumpkin slices: sprinkle over walnuts, feta and thyme.

Do-ahead: Bread can be toasted 2 hours ahead; store in an airtight container. Pumpkin can be cooked 1 hour ahead.

How it played out
As an aside, I need to have a little whinge (complain) here about consistency. Cookbooks by The Australian Women’s Weekly are sold worldwide, so they need to include both metric and imperial measurements. But I find it odd that the editors are quite happy to abbreviate grams, kilograms and centimetres to g, kg and cm, but spell out ounces, pounds and inches. In my editorial opinion, both should be treated the same. Just saying.

Made half a batch as written, using my homemade rye sourdough bread. I didn’t make this for a party or for company. Poor John and I enjoyed it for lunch, and we ate whole slices of bread. Oh, and our butternut pumpkins are what Americans call butternut squash.

Shared plates cookbookVerdict
What a fantastic recipe. So easy to make and sensational flavours. I loved the addition of chilli and thyme, but you could make all sorts of alternations to cater for your preferences. For example, slivered almonds or pine nuts instead of walnuts, any chopped herbs in place of thyme, or even omit the chilli and/or cumin. Get creative.

Pumpkin always makes me think of Halloween. A memorable one was during our second overland truck trip in South America.

Roasted pumpkin and feta bruschetta

Posted in Bread, Cheese, Snack, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Mussel, tomato and basil soup (plus fish stock)

green-lip musselsá la grecque: our Greek table, 256pp.
by Pam Talimanidis
Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne, 2009
Cooking on page 32

Pam Talimanidis got sucked in to running the Á la grecque restaurant in Aireys Inlet in 2004. That’s when her husband, Kosta, ignored her pleas of ‘no way’ and bought the premises on the southwest coast of Victoria.

By then, the couple had already been in the restaurant industry for almost 30 years, running Kostas Taverna in Lorne.

They decided to make the new venture a family restaurant, not only for their customers, but for themselves as well. The food is seasonal, fresh and simple. Talimanidis uses locally caught mussels for this recipe, but that’s not an option in Canberra.

Mussel, tomato and basil soup

Mussel, tomato and basil soup (plus fish stock)

120 ml olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 litre fish stock
500 g mussels, scrubbed clean and beards removed
150 ml white wine
1/2 cup basil, chopped
60 ml Pernod
freshly ground black pepper
basil oil or chilli oil (optional) to serve

Tomatoes, onion, wine

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the fish stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, put the mussels and white wine into another large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a low–medium heat, shaking the pan gently from time to time. Check after 4 minutes and discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Tip into a colander and reserve the cooking liquid. Strain this liquid through a clean muslin cloth to remove any sand or grit.

Set aside about a quarter of the mussels to serve in their shells as garnish. Remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells and add to the simmering soup. Add the basil and Pernod and season with pepper. Taste the soup before adding some of the reserved mussel cooking liquid. You want the mussel flavour, but it can be very salty.

Simmer the soup gently for a few minutes, but do not allow it to boil, as the mussels will shrink and become tough and rubbery. Divide the reserved mussels in their shells among 6 soup bowls and pour the soup over them. Drizzle with a little bail or chilli oil (if using) and serve straight away.

Serves 6.

Stock ingredientsFish stock

2 onions
2 carrots
1 stalk celery
1 leek
6 stalks parsley
3 sprigs thyme
2 litres water
700 g fish pieces, scaled and well rinsed
10 whole black peppercorns

Making stockMethod
Wash all the ingredients and herbs thoroughly. Chop the vegetables roughly then put them into a stockpot or large saucepan with the parsley and thyme. Cover with water and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the fish pieces and return the stock to a gentle boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Skim the stock if any impurities rise to the surface.

Strain the stock through a colander, discarding the solids, then taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. If not using straight away, when the stock is completely cold, divide it into batches and refrigerate or freeze.

Makes about 1.5 litres.

Sautéing tomatoes and onionsHow it played out
Our farmers’ market has great specials on Sunday afternoons, and I bought a kilo bag of New Zealand’s excellent green-lip mussels for $6. Bargain. The next day, when I started this recipe in the morning, I told Poor John there would be mussel soup for lunch.

Then I proceeded to make both recipes as written, except for using double the amount of mussels because we love them. Making the stock was straightforward. I had 670 grams of fish fillets in the freezer, so I thawed them out overnight. While the stock simmered, I steamed the mussels, strained them through a kitchen wipe, and set them aside.

Then I made a huge blunder—I left the house to run an errand! Sounds innocent enough, but nope. I returned about 12:05pm to find the fish stock suspiciously low.

Fish stockMe: Have you already had lunch?
Poor John: Yes, I had the mussel soup in the pan.
Me: Did you notice there weren’t any mussels in it?
Poor John: I did. I wondered about that.
Me: And you ate it anyway?
Poor John: Yes!

He’d polished off about half the stock I’d made, along with half of the cooked vegetables. 🙂

So instead of having plenty of fish stock to work with, I had almost 750ml (or three cups instead of four). It was an annoyance but not a disaster, so I acted like a grownup and topped up the fish stock with chicken stock.

The other hitch was removing most of the mussels from their shells. I usually leave the mussels intact, which means everyone gets to fiddle with their own shells. But I did these myself and it took a lot more time than I expected.

But at least the soup was ready and Poor John enjoyed a second helping along with me.

á la grecque: our Greek tableVerdict
While the soup was delicious and beautiful, I’m not likely to make it again. From go-to-whoa (Aussie slang for from-start-to-finish) it was fiddly. It took hours to make, although I repeat that I did pop out for a few errands. I started on the stock about 10am and sat down to my bowl of soup about 3pm.

I reckon this is exactly the right kind of recipe for a restaurant, where there are plenty of hands to deal with all the steps. Or make it for a dinner party and tell the guests exactly how much effort went in to making their starter. 🙂

I may not have been able to buy locally caught mussels for this recipe, but we caught lots of piranhas on a fishing expedition in Brazil. Amazing how easy they are to catch. Currently we are travelling in the southwest of the USA, enjoying the national parks, but not much in the way of seafood.

Mussel, tomato and basil soup




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Scotch woodcock

egg, butter, milk, creamThe CWA cookery book and household hints, 414pp.
by the Country Women’s Association of Western Australia
Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 2011
Cooking on page 32

The Country Women’s Association is Australia’s largest women’s organisation with 44,000 members across 1855 branches. It aims to improve the conditions for country women and to make life better for them and their families, especially those living in rural and remote Australia. The organisation is self-funded, non-partisan and non-sectarian.

This cookbook was first published in 1936 by Western Australia’s CWA. It covers all of Australia’s favourite recipes as well as hints for homemaking and gardening.

I was given a copy when I first came to Australia in 1982. No idea what happened to it. I’ve had this newer version for a couple of years. It’s the 54th edition and celebrates the 75th anniversary of the CWA.

Page 32 has five recipes, including one I’d never heard of, so I made it.

Scotch woodcock

Scotch woodcock

2 slices toast
3 tablespoons milk
15 gr (1/2 oz) butter + more to butter toast
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cream
cayenne and salt
2 or 3 anchovies or anchovy paste

Butter toast on both sides. Into a stew pan, put the butter, egg yolks, milk, cream and cayenne. Heat, but do not boil. Pound anchovies and spread on the toast, cut toast into strips 5 cm (2 in) long and 2.5 cm (1 in) wide, pile toast pieces on a dish, pour sauce over and sprinkle with parsley. Serve very hot.

egg yolksHow it played out
First off, I have to confess that I did some minor editing on the ingredients and method. For example, parsley and extra butter for the toast weren’t mentioned in the ingredients. Some instructions were rather sketchy. They’d have made sense to an experienced cook, but not a beginner.

I made the recipe for lunch, according to the way I’d tidied it up. I used my homemade bread (great for mopping up the egg that oozed off the toast) and 3 anchovies (I love them).

CWA Cookery BookVerdict
Never mind that the instructions were a bit goofy. This was delicious and I have made it two more times in recent days. Perfect for when you have another recipe that called for a couple of egg whites, or when you’ve broken a yolk, or when you’re just hungry for toast and anchovies.

As an aside, I’ve had a good look through this book. It has an abundance of recipes covering plenty of Aussie favourites. Many have sketchy instructions and abbreviated ingredients, so I’m guessing the book has been reprinted without anyone going over the recipes again. I was an editor in a previous life, so I notice these things.

Poor John and I are currently travelling in the southwest of the USA. We’ve visited some fantastic national parks and have more to go. Feel free to check out my travel blog.

Posted in Bread, Breakfast, Dairy, Fish and seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Fennel, tomato and garlic gratin

fennel, tomatoes and garlicCooking from the market: vegetables, 192pp.
by Murdoch Books test kitchen
Murdoch Books Australian Millers Point NSW, 2009
Cooking on page 32

We love vegetables and I try to cook seasonally whenever possible. So this seemed the perfect book to check out at the local library. It gives tips on what to look for when buying vegetables, and how to store and prepare them. It also says what’s available when.

Chapters cover winter vegetables, the onion family, brassicas and greens, salad vegetables, and pods and beans.

Page 32 calls for fennel—an ingredient that is available year-round and often overlooked. Former US President Thomas Jefferson once wrote in a letter that ‘fennel is beyond every other vegetables, delicious…’.

fennel, tomato and garlic gratinFennel, tomato and garlic gratin

900 g (2 lb) fennel bulbs (about 2 bulbs)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
450 g (1 lb) tomatoes

parmesan and lemon grated parmesan tomato and fennel mixture tomato and fennel gratin Gratin topping
60 g (2 1/4 oz/ 3/4 cup) fresh breadcrumbs
65 g (2 1/2 oz/ 2/3 cup) grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Grease a 22 cm (8 1/2 in) square gratin dish. Cut the fennel in half lengthways, then slice thinly.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook the onion for 3–4 minutes, or until softened but not browned, then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently, for 7 minutes, or until softened and golden brown.

Using a small knife, score a cross in the base of each tomato. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds, remove using a slotted spoon then plunge into a bowl of iced water. Drain the tomatoes and peel the skins away from the cross. Chop the tomato flesh roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the tomato has softened. Season well and tip into the gratin dish.

To make the gratin topping, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, lemon zest and garlic. Sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crips. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

How it played out
I bought two fennel bulbs at the market for $1.50 each. They weighed a little less than the suggested 900 grams, but I sliced them thinly and knew they’d be enough. For the breadcrumbs, I whizzed up a couple of slices of my homemade rye sourdough bread in the food processor, then followed all the rest of the recipe.

Confession: I often don’t peel tomatoes, but I did for this recipe. 🙂 I left them in the boiling water for just over 30 seconds, which I find makes them easier to peel.

Cooking from the market: vegetablesVerdict
Fennel isn’t a commonly eaten vegetable and people often forget—or simply don’t know—how tasty it can be. This is the perfect recipe to showcase it’s slightly aniseed-y flavour. We all (including two teenagers who had never tried fennel) loved the combination of flavours here.

Will make this regularly when I can buy fennel on special. If you’ve never tried it, I hope you do soon.

By the way, I hadn’t realised that fennel is a primary ingredient in absinthe. Who knew?

I haven’t tried absinthe in a long, long time, but I very much enjoy red wine. A recent outing was to visit the amazing d’Arenberg Cube in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Well worth the time.

Posted in Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Hearty chicken and vegetable stew

chopped vegetables and wineGood Housekeeping: 100 best one-dish meals, 152pp.
Good Housekeeping kitchen
Hearst Books, New York, 2003
Cooking on page 32–33

One-dish meals are a great time-saver in the kitchen. So easy to chuck everything into one pot and much less cleanup afterwards.

I checked this out of the local library for some inspiration as winter approaches in Australia. This has lots of great options, including a winner on pages 32–33.

Chicken and vegetable stew

Hearty chicken and vegetable stew

2 medium leeks (about 4 ounces each)
1 fennel bulb (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves, (cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces)
8 ounces mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 medium carrots (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup half-and-half or light cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 teaspoon salt

fennel, carrots, leeks cream, mushrooms, chicken stockMethod
Cut the roots and trim leaf ends of leeks; cut each leek lengthwise in half and separate leaves. Since well with cold running water to remove any sand. Cut leeks crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces.

Cut root end and stalks from fennel bulb; discard. Cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into thin wedges.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven saucepot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon butter; melt. Add chicken and cook until chicken is golden and just loses its pink color throughout. With slotted spoon, transfer chicken to medium bowl.

To drippings in Dutch oven, add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until golden (do not overcook). Transfer mushrooms to bowl with chicken.

sautéing mushrooms sautéing vegetables

To Dutch oven, add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; heat until hot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter or margarine; melt. Add carrots, leeks, fennel, potatoes, bay leaf and tarragon. Cook vegetables 10 to 15 minutes, until fennel is transparent and leeks are wilted, stirring occasionally.

Add wine; cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add chicken broth and water; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

In cup, mix half-and-half and flour until smooth. Stir half-and-half mixture into vegetable mixture; heat to boiling over high heat.

Reduce heat to medium; cook 1 minute to thicken slightly. Stir in chicken, mushrooms, peas and salt; heat through. Discard bay leaf. Serves 4.

How it played out
Except for the fennel, these are the kind of ingredients I have on hand almost year round, so I was ready to go as soon as I bought the fennel. It didn’t take long to chop all the vegetables and get underway with the cooking. I then followed all the cooking steps until—YES UNTIL—it came time to serve.

Good Housekeeping cookbook

I had a lovely bowl of stew all served up and was in the midst of photographing it when Poor John said, ‘Aren’t there supposed to be peas in the stew?’ Oh ugh, yet again I managed to leave out an essential ingredient.

Not to worry, the peas were thawed and ready to be added. So I dumped them in, rewarmed the stew, and started a new photography session, complete with peas.

This stew is delicious and so easy to make. It shouldn’t be too hard to modify the recipe for someone who is gluten and/or lactose intolerant. Potato starch or cornstarch (cornflour) could be substituted for flour and there are lactose-free options for the cream. I think it would also work well in a slow cooker.

P.S. The photo below is before adding the peas.

chicken stew

Posted in Main dish, Stew/soup, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments


Tequila and orangeHow to make over 200 cocktails, 122pp.
by Margaret Barca
Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria, 2001
Cooking on page 32

I have no idea how I came to own this little book. Maybe it belongs to one of our daughters. Years ago, I enjoyed whiskey sours, but these days I’m not a cocktail drinker, unless the occasional margarita or negroni count.

Most pages have two to three recipes. When I got to page 32, I decided to make the second one rather than the Algonquin. The first one was named after a famous New York Hotel and is made with bourbon, vermouth and pineapple juice. Certainly not a combo I am drawn to. Besides, my friend and neighbour, Barb, gave me a partial bottle of tequila, so I figured it deserved an outing. 🙂

Ambassador drink


60 ml tequila
30 ml sugar syrup
orange juice
orange slice for garnish

Pile ice cubes into an old-fashioned glass, then add sugar syrup, tequila and orange juice. Stir gently. Decorate with an orange slice on the rim.

Cocktails cookbook

How it played out
I had sugar syrup in the fridge, so all I had to do was mix together the rest of the ingredients. I squeezed an orange for the juice and got 58 ml, so almost equal to the tequila.

This is a cocktail for sweet lovers. It’s way too sweet for me. I wouldn’t make it again for myself, but I know people who would love it.
Do you like sweet cocktails?

As an aside, this book is packed with inspiration, and the best thing is that the index is organised according to the main spirit in the drink.

Our travels have exposed us to all kinds of exotic beverages. I was especially puzzled by a morning drink in Vietnam that I thought was laced with Tia Maria. I had to laugh at the brand name of the tequila. We are currently touring some of the national parks in western USA—definitely coyote country.

Posted in Beverage, Fruit | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Raspberry yoghourt ice cream

honey and raspberriesCranks puddings and desserts, 80pp.
compiled by Daphne Swann
Guinness Superlatives, Middlesex, England, 1987
Cooking on page 32

The first Cranks restaurant opened in Carnaby Street, London, in 1961. At that time, there were only a few vegetarian restaurants in the United Kingdom, and wholefoods were hard to get. In fact, Cranks was so well-regarded that it was deemed to be a major factor in the spread of vegetarianism in the UK.

The early menu focused almost entirely on salads, but expanded over time as the restaurant opened new locations. Cranks was sold to Guinness in 1987 (the year this book came out). It was then bought and sold several more times, and completely rebranded in the 1990s.

Raspberry ice cream

Raspberry yoghourt ice cream

1 lb (450 g) raspberries
2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
1/4 pt (150 ml) natural yoghourt
8 fl oz (250 ml) double cream, lightly whipped

double cream and yogurt ice cream mixture

Pick over the raspberries then put them into the liquidiser or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the honey and yoghourt; blend again until combined. Fold in the lightly whipped cream. Freeze until almost frozen, then remove from freezer and beat until smooth. Freeze until firm.

Serves 4–6.

How it played out
Raspberries were on special at the markets ($1 per 125-gram punnet), so I loaded up and headed home to make this recipe. I followed everything, except that rather than whipping the double cream separately, I just added it to the food processor and gave everything another buzz. That worked fine.

It took several hours for the mixture to be almost frozen (I kept checking because I wanted to serve it to guests after dinner). Then it took another couple of hours to freeze to firm. So make it in the morning if you want to use it in the evening.

Cranks desserts

Great little recipe for making ice cream without an ice cream maker. Page 32 also has a similar recipe for peach ice cream. The ingredients and process are the same. But instead of raspberries, add 900 grams of fresh peaches to boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

A fellow blogger mentioned Cranks cookbooks a while back. I’ve searched and searched, but can’t remember who it was. I’d be happy to send them this cookbook if I can figure out who it is. All detective help welcomed.

Poor John adores ice cream and chocolate, and he eats rather a lot of both at home and when we travel. He was thrilled to find Germany’s best ice cream and chocolate shops in Münster.

Raspberry yogurt ice cream

Posted in Dairy, Dessert, Fruit, Snack | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments