Lamb with herb and garlic rub

herbs for roast lamb

Roast dinner, 160pp.
Reader’s Digest kitchens
Reader’s Digest (Australia), Ultimo NSW, 2007
Cooking on page 32–33

Oh my, I can’t count how many roast dinners I’ve made over the years.

Poor John’s Aunt Esther lived with us for eight years (before she went into demented aged care at age 97). She loved a roast and I obliged regularly.

This cookbook is part of a Reader’s Digest series that covers various cooking styles, cuisines and core ingredients. Chapters in this book cover meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and desserts, as well as sauces, stuffings and accompaniments.

Aunt Esther would have loved the recipe on page 32.

Lamb with herbs and garlic

Lamb with herb and garlic rub

2 kg (4 lb) leg of lamb
1 lemon, halved and seeded

Herb and garlic rub
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) olive oil

Herbs for roast lamb Herb and garlic mixture Lamb ready to roast

To make the rub, mix the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour in the oil and mix until well combined.

Using a sharp knife, make several small slits all over the lamb. Rub the herb mixture all over the meat, pushing it into the slits, then leave the lamb for 1 hour at room temperature to marinate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Place the lamb in a roasting pan, fat side up, and cook for about 2 hours (30 minutes per 500 g/1 lb). Cover with foil after 1 hour.

Transfer the lamb to a carving board. Squeeze the lemon juice over lamb then allow to rest for about 10–15 minutes before slicing. Serve with roasted vegetables and steamed beans.

Cook’s tip
It is important to rest a joint of meat for at least 10 minutes before carving and serving. When rested, the internal and external temperatures even out and the juices are redistributed, making the meat more succulent and easier to carve.

How it played out
I’ve made this twice in just a couple of weeks—once in Canberra and then again on Flinders Island, using their wonderful locally produced lamb. In both places, I was lucky enough to be able to use homegrown herbs and Australian olive oil.

I followed the recipe exactly, using all the garlic and all the herbs finely chopped. Resting the joint is an important step, so be sure to follow the cook’s tip noted above. I made gravy while I waited.

Roasted lamb

The first time I made it, I served it to fellow travelling companions, Martin and Gwynne from the USA. They love lamb but sometimes find it hard to find in America.

An absolutely brilliant recipe for roast lamb. We must have loved it or I wouldn’t have made it twice so close together.

For those who can’t get or who don’t care for lamb, I’m sure you could successfully make the same recipe with a beef roast.

P.S. I’ve taken several pics of the cover of this cookbook and now can’t find any of them. Will try to add one later.

We loved Flinders Island. Here’s a post that covers our walk there on Earth Day.

Mining scoop

We travelled with Martin and Gwynne for almost a year in Africa. Here they are in a giant mining scoop in the National Museum of Australia



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

Chickpeas with tomato (chhole)

cooked chickpeas

Curry nation, Britain’s 100 favourite curries, 224pp.
by Madhur Jaffrey
Ebury Press,
Cooking on page 132

We love curries. It’s probably just as well because, over the last three years, we’ve spent almost six months in India and eaten some version of curry virtually three times a day.

The British love curries too: so much so that the country’s former favourite dish, fish and chips, has been replaced by chicken tikka masala. Madhur Jaffrey includes her recipe for this dish, but it is on pages 76–78.

Page 32 doesn’t have a recipe, so I moved on to 132 and one of my favourite ingredients—chickpeas (often called garbanzo beans). This north Indian recipe is from Sarita Udaniya of the Chaat House in Leicester.

Chickpeas with tomato

Chickpeas with tomato (chhole)

200g (7oz) dried chickpeas
½ large onion, finely chopped, plus 1 medium onion, finely sliced
2½ centimetres (1 inch) peeled root ginger, cut into slivers
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 tablespoons tomato purée
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala

ginger and onion cooking chickpeas chickpea liquid

The night before, wash the chickpeas well, then place in a large bowl with 1.5 litres (2¾ pints) of water.

Next day, put the chickpeas and their soaking liquid into a large, deep pot about 25 centimetres (10 inches) in diameter, along with the chopped onion and the ginger. Bring to a boil over a high heat. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for one to three hours, or until the chickpeas are very tender. (Or you could use a pressure cooker. Cook on full pressure for 17 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the pressure drop by itself.) Drain the chickpeas and set aside, reserving the liquid. Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make it up to 375ml (13 fl oz).

Clean out and dry the same pot. Pour in the oil and set it over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the sliced onion and stir and fry for about five minutes, or until it turns light brown. Mix in the tomato purée and stir well for two minutes. Add the salt and return the chickpeas to the pot. Mix well. Pour in the reserved chickpea liquid and bring to a simmer. Add the garam masala and simmer over a low heat uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Serve hot.

How it played out
Lyn and Pete, our neighbours at the South Coast, were coming to Canberra for a couple of days, so I offered to make them one of my Indian feasts. This is when I make at least one more curry than the number of guests who are coming.

That means I have to start the proceedings at least two days in advance and that works perfectly when you need to remember to soak the chickpeas the day before.

curry nation cookbook

I made this recipe as written (not using a pressure cooker because I don’t have one). I used garam masala that I bought in India about six months ago. Great flavour.

Besides rice, served with chicken kabuli, paneer palak and a corn curry (recipes available on request). And a big plus was that I could serve it in one of the lovely copper bowls I bought in India.

I love chickpeas in all forms and this recipe did not disappoint. I plan to soak dried peas regularly, just so I can make dishes like this on the spur of the moment.

Here’s a post from my travel blog on one of the delicious meals we had while in India.

Indian feast dishes

Posted in Pulses, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Chewy chocolate chunk slice

coconut, cocoa, chocolate

Epicure chocolate, recipes from 20 years of indulgent ideas, 191pp
edited by Kylie Walker
The Age, John Fairfax Publications, 2006
Cooking on page 32

Melbourne’s main newspaper, The Age, has been publishing recipes for many, many years and this cookbook captures 20 years worth of their chocolate and other indulgent dishes. It also celebrates the 20th birthday of The Age’s weekly food and wine section, Epicure. Looking at the publication date, the section is now into its 31st year.

According to the introduction, the section has shared more than 300 chocolate recipes, but some years were sparse, with only four such recipes published in 1991. This page-32 recipe is by a reader, Linda Nguyen.

chocolate chunk slice

Chewy chocolate chunk slice

1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
125g butter, melted
1 x 395g tin sweetened condensed milk
100g dark chocolate
100g white chocolate
½ cut chopped nuts such as walnuts, pecans or macadamia nuts (optional)
icing (confectioner’s) sugar, to dust (optional)

condensed milk, brown sugar, flour dessert batter dessert ready to cook

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line the sides of a 22cm square tin or equivalent (e.g. a lamington tin.)

Combine flour, coconut, sugar, cocoa powder, butter and condensed milk in a large bowl and mix well. Spread mixture into the prepared pan.

Roughly chop the dark and white chocolate into chunks and press into base. Sprinkle nuts over the base (if using).

Bake for about 25 minutes. Make sure it’s still a little soft when taking out of the oven (the softer it is, the more fudgy it is!).

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar to serve, if desired.

Makes 16 pieces.

How it played out
Oh my, oh my, oh my! What a brilliant recipe for using chocolate.

I followed the recipe as written—good grief, what would I change? Used chopped walnuts, dark chocolate buds that I broke up a bit, and white chocolate chips.

Made this to share with our daughter, Petra, and her cricket team. I cut the slices a little smaller than recommended so the pieces would go further (got about 24 pieces). A bonus was that they had slightly fewer calories (kilojoules). But who’s counting?

Epicure chocolate cookbook

A complete success and beautifully chewy. I should weave the word ‘decadent’ into the title. Really popular with everyone except the one lass who avoids gluten. Oops sorry, I forgot about that.

We’ve had plenty of chocolate on our travels in far flung places. But one memorable day in Germany saw us enjoying ice cream AND chocolate in the one place—Münster. Both were sensational.

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Dessert | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sugar pumpkin with lentils and tangy dressing

pumpkin and lentil salad with crayfish

Fired up vegetarian: no nonsense barbecuing, 184pp.
by Ross Dobson
Murdoch Books, Crows Nest NSW, 2013
Cooking on pages 132–33

I really like Ross Dobson’s flair with food. I first came across his recipe five years ago when we were visiting friends in Victoria. Jan went through her cookbooks to find a likely page-32 option for us to make. That memorable fish dish remains one of my favourites on this blog, and it led me to track down more of Dobson’s books.

In this book, Dobson sets out to prove to us that vegetarian cookery deserves a place on the barbecue. Page 32 is a chapter divider, so I moved on to a great looking option on pages 132–33. Let’s see how good it is.

pumpkin and lentil salad

Sugar pumpkin with lentils and tangy dressing

55 g (2 oz/ 1/4 cup) puy lentils or tiny blue–green lentils
1 sugar or butternut pumpkin (squash), about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz)
1 tablespoon rice bran oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 cup small mint leaves
1 cup flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Tangy dressing
60 ml (2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup) light olive oil
1 large red chilli, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
60 ml (2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

pumpkin, oil, onion, garlic chilli, coriander, lentils chopped veggies tangy dressing

To make the dressing, put the olive oil, chilli and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the chilli and garlic start to sizzle, cook for just a minute or two longer, then remove from the heat. Stir in the vinegar, sugar and salt and mix until dissolved. Pour into a jar or bowl and set aside to infuse.

Put the lentils in a small saucepan and pour in enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy—this may take as little as 5 minutes, or up to 20 minutes, depending on the age of your lentils, so check them regularly. Drain well and set aside.

Preheat the barbecue grill to medium.

Cut the pumpkin in half, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Leaving the skin on, cut the pumpkin into wedges no thicker than 2 cm (3/4 inch). Brush the flesh with the rice bran oil and cook on the grill for 10 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through, checking regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn too much.

Put the hot pumpkin in a large bowl with the onions, herbs and lentils. Stir the dressing , then pour it over the pumpkin.

Toss gently to combine. Serve warm. Serves 4.

How it played out
I made this during our stay in Flinders Island in March. We were invited for a barbecue at Ken and Carolyn’s and I volunteered to bring a couple of salads. 

I was pleased to find puy lentils in the small supermarket in the main town on Flinders. There was already a large chunk of pumpkin in the fridge where we were staying, as well as a bottle of rice bran oil in the cupboard. While I got all the ingredients ready (I cut the pumpkin in chunk), Poor John and Graeme cleaned up the gas barbecue. Too many of the holes on the main burner were clogged, so they went to work with a safety pin. 🙂

Of course, some of the pumpkin pieces got a bit charred, but that didn’t affect the taste. Served with a wonderful feast of crayfish, whiting, kebabs and more.

Fried up vegetarian cookbook

A really great vegetable salad recipe that I will make often. It looks so colourful and the flavours are wonderful. The dressing adds a lovely tang, and some of us squeezed over a bit of lemon and lime juice to give a bit of extra zing.

Soon I’ll be writing more about Ken and Carolyn and others who provided catering and food service on Flinders Island. That will appear on my travel blog and I’ll add a link when it’s up.

Posted in Salad, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Chilli cornbread

corn, capsicum, polenta, chilli

Marie Claire Hot, 400pp.
by Michele Cranston
Murdoch Books Australian, Millers Point NSW, 2005
Cooking on pages 32–33

We love chillies, so buying this book was an absolute no-brainer. It was a secondhand bookstore purchase for a measly $3. It’s loaded with a great variety of recipes with zing, and I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out if. 

The introduction quite rightly points out that chillies vary widely in hotness, and that the seeds are usually the hottest part. There’s also a reminder to use rubber gloves when chopping chillies so you don’t later do damage to your face and eyes. Can’t remember how many times I’ve rubbed my eyes after handling chillies. 

Pages 32–33 have a bread recipe.

Chilli cornbread

Chilli cornbread

150g (5 1/2 oz/ 1 cup) polenta
125 g (4 1/2 oz/ 1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
185 ml (6 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) milk
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
150 g (5 1/2 oz/ 3/4 cup) corn kernels
1/2 red capsicum (pepper), sliced
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
3 teaspoons finely chopped marjoram
5 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
75 g (2 1/2 oz/ 1/2 cup) grated mozzarella cheese

milk, baking powder, spring onions capsicum, spring onion, corn, herbs cornbread batter cornbread to bake

Place the polenta, four, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, milk, yoghurt and oil. Mix well. Add the corn, capsicum, chilli, marjoram and spring onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Pour the batter into a greased 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) baking tray and top with the grated mozzarella. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Cool slightly in the tray, then turn out onto a board. Trim the sides and cut into 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) squares.

How it played out
Corn bread is one of those things you can make blindfolded, although I don’t recommend doing that with this recipe until you’ve chopped the chilli and marjoram, and sliced the capsicum (bell pepper) and spring onions. Oh, and wait until you’ve cut the kernels off the corncob.

That said, I followed the recipe—with my eyes open—using cheddar cheese and dried marjoram because that’s what I had on hand.

I did cool the bread in the pan, but didn’t bother trimming the outer edges because the bread, when baked, had a great shape.

Served with steaks with horseradish sauce, another page-32 recipe coming soon. But seriously, you could serve it with almost anything, even a savoury breakfast.

Marie Claire Hot cookbook

A lovely and colourful bread, but we thought it desperately needed a touch of salt, maybe 1/2 teaspoon, but otherwise it was a great variation on cornbread.

Obviously, you could increase (or reduce) the chilli or use different spices to suit your taste.

We’re travelling in Europe at the moment. We’re seeing all kinds of street food cuisines (mostly sold from food vans), but nothing has been quite like the street food we found in Cambodia.

baked cornbread

Posted in Baking, Bread, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Macadamia-crumbed chicken strips

flour, egg and crumb coating

Home cooking, 256pp.
by Valli Little
HarperCollinsPublishers Australia, Sydney, 2012
Cooking on page 32

This is one of many cookbooks put out through a collaboration involving ABC Books (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), NewsLifeMedia and delicious magazines.

The 100+ recipes here are from Valli Little’s home kitchen. She’s a bestselling author and food director for delicious magazine. The book includes family favourites and plenty of ideas for easy entertaining.

It’s almost impossible to go wrong with these dishes unless, of course, you choose to make something calling for ingredients you don’t especially like.

Chicken macadamia nuggets with salsa

Macadamia-crumbed chicken strips

1/2 cup (75g) macadamias, roughly chopped
2 cups (100g) breadcrumbs
1 cup (150g) plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
12 chicken tenderloins or 4 x 170g chicken breast fillets, cut into thirds lengthways
sunflower oil, to deep-fry

Tomato salsa
4 tomatoes, seed removed, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 long green chilli, seeds removed, chopped
1 tbs grated ginger
2 tbs chopped coriander (cilantro), plus extra leaves to serve
juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges to serve
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

panko and macadamia free-range eggs crumbed chicken strips onion, tomatoes, chillies, ginger, lime

For the tomato salsa, place all the ingredients in a bowl, season , then toss to combine. Set aside.

Place the macadamias and breadcrumbs in a food processor and whizz to fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl.

Place the flour in a separate bowl and season. Place the egg in a third bowl.

Dust the chicken first in flour, shaking off the excess, then in the egg and finally in the macadamia crumbs, making sure each piece is well coated. Chill for 20 minutes to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Half-fill a large saucepan or deep-fryer with the oil and heat to 190°C (if you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, a cube of bread dropped into the oil will turn golden after 30 seconds when the oil is hot enough). In batches, deep-fry the crumbed chicken strips for 3–4 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining chicken.

Serve the chicken strips with the tomato salsa, lime wedges and extra coriander leaves. Serves. 4.

How this played out
This seemed like a perfect recipe for a picnic so I started it in the mid-afternoon to take along for an early evening outing with family and friends. I figured it could be served at room temperature without problem.

chicken nuggets salsa

As suggested, I made the salsa first so the flavours could meld. I then cut about 1.3 kilograms worth of chicken breast fillets into strips, and followed the recipe to coat the strips in flour, then egg, and finally the crumb mixture. As you can tell I was making a double batch to feed a crowd.

I used panko breadcrumbs because that’s what I had on hand. There was enough of all three coatings to have done 2 kilos (or more) of chicken strips, so keep that in mind if you want to make an even larger batch.

Deep frying always takes longer than you think it will, especially when you’re doing a lot. Each batch of strips took close to 5 minutes to become golden. In the end, we were a little late heading out, but so were the friends (Vicky, Graham and Luke) who were joining us, so that didn’t matter.

Served with lots of salads and a frittata.

As a special treat, Vicky brought along her kayak so my niece, Ellen, and her hubby, Tom, could each have a go on the Molonglo River, which feeds into Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.

Home Cooking by Valli Little

What a great way spend time with friends and family. Lots of delicious food (the chicken was a winner and the crumb mixture gave a nice, but subtle crunch), wonderful company, excellent weather, and the kayak didn’t tip over.

If the chicken pieces are cut a little smaller, I think this recipe would also be good as an appetiser, with the salsa as a dipping sauce.

Tom and Ellen visited us as part of a 10-week, trip-of-a-lifetime around Southeast Asia. We felt especially blessed they managed to fit Canberra into their travels. They were just ahead of the colourful autumn displays we have in Canberra.

kayaking on Molonglo River

Tom has a go at kayaking on the Molonglo River

Picnic time in Canberra

Picnicking with Ellen, Tom, Poor John, Vicky and Luke. Graham is missing, off to the right

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

Biggel balls

cheese, chives, sour cream, butter

Green eggs and ham cookbook, 64pp.
by Georgeanne Brennan
Random House, New York, 2006
Cooking on page 32

I love Dr Seuss books and am especially fond of The Cat in the Hat.

Georgeanne Brenna and Frankie Frankeny, who collaborated on this cookbook, love Dr Seuss too. According to Brennan, the pair read all 44 Dr Seuss books and found they were full of wacky foods for them to bring to life.

They then set about creating and illustrating recipes that were not only Seussian, zany and fun, but also deliciously good and healthy.

There are some great recipe titles, such as River of Nobsk Corn-off-the Cobsk, Noodle-Eating-Poodle Noodles, Pink Yink Ink Drink and, of course, Who-Roast-Beast.

So on to page 32 with a recipe inspired by Dr Seuss’ Sleep Blook.

Cheese balls with poppy seeds

Biggel balls

5 ounces grated mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, or other cheese
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature,
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup poppy or sesame seeds, chopped green pumpkin seeds, chopped pistachios or pecans, or other seeds or nuts

grated cheese cheese balls

In a food processor, combine the cheese, sour cream, butter, chives and salt, and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

Using your hands, shape the mixture into bite-size balls. Place on a tray lined with aluminium foil and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Spread the seeds or nuts on a plate and roll the balls in them. 

Makes about 18 balls.

How it played out
We like strong flavours so I used a vintage cheddar, and followed everything else. After refrigerating them for just 30 minutes—I was in a hurry—I rolled them in poppy seeds. Even 1/3 cup of seeds is too much. I needed about 1/4 cup for 17 balls.

Took them to a friend’s house. Served as a snack with wine. Also spread a couple on savoury biscuits (crackers).

Green eggs and ham cookbook

So very easy to make (a perfect recipe to involve the kids—don’t they always love to get their hands messy) and just as easy to serve. Goes well as an appetiser and would be great popped into a lunch box.

I think I’d prefer them rolled in toasted sesame seeds (or a mixture of sesame and poppy seeds for a prettier appearance) and served with a salsa dipper.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can choose virtually any cheese that will stay firm, and any nuts or seeds that you fancy.

We’ve just arrived in France and are catching up with people shown in this post from my travel blog.

Posted in Appetiser, Cheese, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments