The unloved iceberg salad

salad ingredients

Outback pantry, 180pp.
by Lynton Tapp
Hardie Grant Publishing, Richmond Victoria, 2015
Cooking on page 32

Lynton Tapp grew up on a cattle station in the Katherine region of Australia’s Northern Territory. That’s where he learned the pleasure of living in the middle of nowhere, producing your own food, cooking on a campfire, and fishing and hunting.

At one stage, he got sucked in by takeaway food and soft drinks, and decided the only way to shed the extra kilos was to start cooking healthy food for himself. He got hooked on nutrition and even went to America to help care for his sister when she attended a spinal rehabilitation centre after breaking her back.

The life-changer was when he came second in 2013 MasterChef Australia. Today he lives in Melbourne and hosts two television series, My Market Kitchen and A Taste of Travel.

Page 32 is an under appreciated old favourite.

iceberg lettuce salad

The unloved iceberg salad

2 teaspoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon chardonnay vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons chives, chopped

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, cut into wedges
50 g (1 3/4 oz) of your favourite blue cheese, crumbled

vinegar, sour cream, lettuce iceberg salad

In a small bowl whisk together the ingredients for the dressing until well combined. Lay the iceberg wedges on a serving platter or board, and drizzle with the dressing. Lastly, crumble the blue cheese over the top.

How it played out
I had company coming for lunch and was delighted to find that I had everything on hand except the chardonnay vinegar. Not to worry, I did have a lovely raspberry vinegar that an Belgian exchange student gave me.

I followed the recipe, and then garnished each serving with a sprinkling of cooked bacon, halved cherry tomatoes and parsley, as well as chives from our garden.

Recipes don’t get much easier than this and it took less than 10 minutes to have lunch on the table. Of course, I managed to forget to top the salad with the blue cheese, so it got added when we were halfway through the meal. Hence one big pic of a partially eaten salad. 🙂

Outback pantryVerdict
I love salad in all its forms and this was no exception. It’s a great way to highlight iceberg lettuce, but don’t forget the blue cheese, which is a perfect addition. So is bacon. 

Poor John and I are travelling by train across Asia from Beijing in China to St Petersburg in Russia. Our route is called the Trans Mongolian Railway and our stops also include Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, and Irkutsk and Moscow in Russia.

The marathon leg we start tomorrow—from Irkutsk to Moscow—will take four days. We’re taking plenty of nonperishable food, but nothing as tasty as this. You are most welcome to follow along on my travel blog.


Posted in Light meal, lunch, Salad, Side dish, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Lemon delicious pudding

lemon, flour, eggs

National Microwave Australian Cookbook, 177pp.
no author named
National Panasonic (Australia) Pty Ltd, North Ryde, 1988
Cooking on page 132

I’ve had this cookbook for decades. It belonged to my mother-in-law, who was a great advocate of microwave ovens. I’ve never been much good with them.

In the 1970s and 80s, we lived in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where microwaves weren’t all that common. I never owned one there, so never developed a habit for using them.

In fact, my mother bought me my first microwave in the early 1990s on one of her visits to Australia. So I had to work up to making this recipe. 🙂

lemon delicious pudding

Lemon delicious pudding

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
4 eggs (separated)
½ cup plain flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
¾ cup milk

beating pudding mix Pudding resting

Lightly combine butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks gradually. 
Fold in flour, lemon rind, juice and milk. Beat egg whites till soft peaks form and fold into mixture.

Pour batter into a lightly greased deep 19 cm soufflé dish. Cook on MEDIUM for 6 minutes. Stand, loosely covered, for 5 minutes.

Serve with toasted coconut, ice cream or whipped cream.

Tip: To toast coconut, place 1/2 cup of desiccated coconut in a thin layer on paper towel. Heat on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Stir occasionally.

How it played out
My friend and neighbour, Barb, stopped by the other night and asked if I had an idea for a quick sweet. Her dessert-loving son was coming for dinner. A light bulb went off in my head and I handed her a couple of lemons and this cookbook, with an offer to come help her make it—meaning I would photograph her doing all the work.

Microwave cookbook

And that’s exactly what happened. By the time I arrived, Barb had everything ready to go, so I took pics and waited around for the few minutes it took for the recipe to come together and cook. Given the number of eggs, it seems appropriate to cover the resting dish with a chicken tea towel.

Barb was out of coconut, so toasted almonds instead. I didn’t hang around for dinner, so the main pics and the verdict are Barb’s.

Barb’s verdict
A nice enough recipe that was super easy and quick to make, but not all that exciting. The family enjoyed it, but I’m unlikely to make it again.

Barb made this just before we set out on our latest travels, including China, Mongolia, Russia, Sweden and Iceland. You can check that out here. We head out on a train tonight from Mongolia to Russia. I won’t surface again until sometime Monday.


Posted in Baking, Dessert, Eggs | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Spiced lamb backstrap

marinating lamb backstraps

Tooheys Brothers cooking handbook, 240pp.
no author named
Ebury Press Book, Random House, North Sydney, 2015
Cooking on page 132

This book begins by introducing James and John Toohey, two brothers who, in the second half of the 1800s, set out to create a brewing legend in Australia. It doesn’t go into detail about the adversities they encountered, but by 1900 their brews were such a success that they were each awarded a seat in Parliament.

Not surprisingly, this cookbook has many recipes that either include beer or go great with beer. Oh, and there are a few desserts. Given that it’s a handbook, most recipes are straightforward.

Page 32 introduces Tooheys New, a brew they developed in 1931, so on to page 132.

Lamb backstrap with veggies

Spiced lamb backstrap

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon ground paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (not ground)
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 lamb backstraps
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and halved lengthways
2 zucchini, cut into quarters lengthways
tomato relish, to serve

Combine 1/3 cup of the oil, paprika, cumin, pepper, lemon pepper seasoning and garlic in a shallow ceramic of glass dish. Add the lamb and turn to coat. Cover and marinate in the fridge for up to 2 days, turning occasionally.

Preheat the barbecue grill or flat plate over medium–high heat. Drain the lamb of the marinade and pat dry with paper towel.

Cook for 4 minutes each side for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest.

Toss the asparagus, broccolini and zucchini with the remaining oil. Cook on the grill plate for about 5 minutes, turning often, until tender and lightly charred. Serve the lamb with the charred veggies and tomato relish.

Note: If you have time and patience, and would like to pack as much flavour into the lamb as possible, leave it marinating in the fridge for 2 days. If you’re pressed for time, 4 hours will do the trick.

lamb backstraps grilling lamb backstraps

How it played out
I’ve been hanging out to make this recipe, but lamb backstraps usually cost a fortune. Luckily, I bought three of them (on a half-price special at the markets), weighing a total of 750 grams. I’ve read that most backstraps weigh 200 grams each, so I proceeded with the full amount of marinade ingredients. Confession: I adore cumin.

The smell of the marinade was fantastic and I dipped a finger in to have a taste. Yummy! I was short on time, so the lamb got only 6 hours in the marinade.

It was winter in Australia when I made these, so they got cooked on a grill plate indoors. Asparagus wasn’t in season either, so I used grilled zucchini, steamed broccoli, roasted cauliflower and roasted tomatoes.

The backstraps were a bit thicker than expected and got about 5 minutes a side. The zucchini took only a few minutes a side. By the way, the pics don’t really do the meal justice.

I can’t tell you how many times the family said, Oh mum, this is delicious. Oh mum, this is perfect, but the praise was constant. The entire meal was a complete success.

Having thumbed through the cookbook, I have to say that every recipe looks easy-to-make and delicious. I may have to buy it or have it on permanent loan from the library.

Toohey's cooking handbook

Poor John and I are travelling in China, Mongolia, Russia, Sweden and Iceland during October and November.Who knows what cookbooks I’ll find.

I have a batch of recipes ready to post and will try to do so when internet is available (we’ll be on long-haul trains for 11 of the days—we’re boarding the first in two hours). Your comments are most welcome here, but my responses will be delayed.

If you don’t already, please join in on my travel blog. We love having company.

Posted in Main dish, Meat, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Warm pumpkin bruschetta

Pumpkin, garlic, rosemary

The gut foundation cookbook, 160pp.
edited by Terry Bolin and Geradline Georgeou
HarperCollinsPublishers Australia, Sydney, 2009
Cooking on page 32

Poor nutrition can have a devastating impact on people of all ages. To help Australians get on track with their daily diet, The Gut Foundation called on some of Australia’s top chefs to provide recipes that are easy to make, balanced and wholesome.

In addition to recipes, there is information on the roles fibre, carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals play in our diet. There is also discussion about digestive conditions such a irritable bowl syndrome, diverticular disease and heartburn.

Luckily we eat a well-rounded diet, so I checked this out from the local library because page 32 looked irresistible. The recipe is by Elise Pascoe.

Pumpkin bruschetta



Warm pumpkin bruschetta

500 g butternut pumpkin, (cut into dice)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 rosemary sprig, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
8 slices Italian bread
extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
1/2 garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoons Greek dried oregano leaves

roasting pumpkin

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F).

Combine pumpkin, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss well. Transfer to a baking tray and spread out to form a single layer.

Roast for 12 minutes, or until pumpkin is golden on the edges. Splash with white wine and vinegar and return to oven to roast until liquid has evaporated and pumpkin is tender.

Spray bread slices on each side with oil and grill until golden. Rub one side with garlic. Spoon warm pumpkin mixture on top of bread and scatter with oregano. Serve at once.

Serves 4.

Gut Foundation cookbook

How it played out
I had everything on hand to make half a batch, and had the oven on anyway for another dish. So I peeled the pumpkin and chopped it into smallish dice.

Because something else was already in the oven, I skipped spraying the bread with oil and grilling it. Instead I popped slices of my homemade olive bread in the toaster, which worked just fine. I then added a spread of my homemade garlic mayonnaise, and piled on the pumpkin and sprinkled over the oregano.

This is excellent. Poor John and I love these ingredients, and I was pleased to have a healthy lunch on the table in less than 30 minutes. I think the mayo was a tasty (and slightly guilty) addition. 🙂

Poor John and I are travelling in China, Mongolia, Russia, Sweden and Iceland during October and November.Who knows what cookbooks I’ll find.

I have a batch of recipes pretty much ready to post and will try to do so when internet is available (we’ll be on trains for at least 15 of the days). Your comments are most welcome here, but my answers are likely to be delayed.

If you don’t already, please join in on my travel blog. We love company.

Pumpkin bruschetta

Posted in Bread, Light meal, lunch, Vegetable, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Poached eggs

Free-range organic egg Free-range eggs

The great Aussie bloke’s cookbook, 212pp.
by Kim Terakes
Penguin Group (Australia), Camberwell Victoria, 2008
Cooking on page 32

In the introduction, Kim Terakes describes himself as ‘a fifty-year-old, fat, bald bloke’ who is not a chef, but who ‘can cook a bit’. His career in an advertising agency meant he ate out a lot, and that exposure inspired his decision to cook for himself.

A real turning point came when he was asked to do some food photography while on holiday in Tuscany. He wrote five articles to accompany those pics and suddenly his food-writing career was born. He’s written for various magazines including the men’s magazine, GQ. That’s where he discovered that men wanted to learn to cook. As a result he decided to develop cooking classes for boys and men.

I bought this cookbook for Graeme, who minds our house and dogs when we travel. I figured he needed ‘a friend’ in the kitchen when I’m not there to cook.

Page 32 has three basic recipes for eggs—boiled, fried and poached.

Poached eggs

Poached eggs

Ingredients and method
Poaching eggs is actually really simple, if you follow two golden rules. Don’t have the water boiling too hard (a rolling boil is too strong) and don’t use a shallow frying pan—you need a nice deep pan to poach properly. Then, it’s as simple as adding a teaspoon of vinegar to some salted, barely simmering water and gently breaking the egg into a cup before sliding it into the pan. When the egg is just cooked (about 3–4 minutes), carefully remove it with a slotted spoon, and serve.

Aussie bloke's cookbook

How it played out
Poached eggs were the topic of a 10-minute cooking show the other night. That chef’s approach was pretty much the same as the one given here, although he said not to add salt as it draws protein from the egg. He also said to add slightly more vinegar and to swirl the water gently before adding the egg.

So I left the water unsalted, added a tablespoon (or a little more) of vinegar, gave the water a swirl and cooked the egg for 3 minutes.

I made this just for me for lunch, using a large free-range organic egg from a farmer’s market. See how the laid-on date is hand-marked on the shell. And isn’t the yolk a beautiful colour?

This is the best poached egg I’ve had in ages. It turned out absolutely perfect, and especially nice served with a buttered slice of my homemade olive bread, some cherry tomatoes, and a bit of rocket and parsley.

poached egg on toast

Posted in Breakfast, Eggs, Light meal, lunch | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Asparagus with bacon and blue cheese

Asparagus, blue cheese, bacon

Lunchbox bible, 258pp.
by Margaret Barca
Penguin Group, Australia, 2007
Cooking on page 32

I work from home, so don’t have to take lunches to the office, but it is one of my favourite meals of the day. So I bought this at the recent Lifeline Book Fair. It was one of about 25 books I got for $20.

The book is loaded with lunch inspiration, covering soups, salads, wraps, rolls, school options, treats, fruit and smoothies. Oh and yes, sandwiches, which is what I found on page 32.

Asparagus, bacon and blue cheese

Asparagus with bacon and blue cheese

2 rashers rindless bacon
4 slices light rye bread
butter or margarine for spreading
6 spears asparagus, cooked
50 g soft blue cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grill bacon or fry in a dry non-stick pan until crisp. Allow to cool, then chop.

Lightly butter bread.

Place asparagus, bacon and cheese on two of the bread slices. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and top with remaining bread.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

asparagus cooking asparagus and bacon

How it played out
Just last week, my friend, Lyn, arrived from the coast for a five-day visit. I was completely delighted when she presented me with a bunch of asparagus (and a dozen free-range eggs) she’d bought at a farmer’s market. The asparagus had been picked that morning.

It just so happened that I also had a loaf of homemade sourdough rye bread and a small pack of hand-cured bacon.

Before Lyn had a chance to sit down, I had the bacon cooking and the bread sliced and in the toaster. I cooked the asparagus in the same pan as the bacon (hey, you don’t waste bacon fat).

Assembly was quick and easy. I spread the toasted bread with my homemade mayonnaise and then added the blue cheese. Finally topped with the bacon and asparagus.

Lunchbox bible

It’s spring in Australia and asparagus will soon be widely available. I can see this delicious sandwich appearing regularly. I prefer it open-faced and with mayo rather than butter. Personal preference.

This makes an amazing lunch, but I’m not sure how well it will travel in an actual lunchbox.

If you make it to take to work, I suggest you use butter or margarine, instead of mayonnaise. That said, mayo is fine, if you can pop the sandwich in the fridge when you get to work. P.S. Here’s my recipe for homemade mayo (scroll down).

Posted in Bread, Cheese, Light meal, lunch, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

White chocolate, cherry and macadamia muffins

muffin ingredients

Muffin magic, 112pp.
by Susannah Blake
Pavilion Books, London, 2009
Cooking on page 64 (32 x 2)

Muffins are a quick and easy treat, and this book is a collection of tasty options for almost every occasion.

I was impressed by the range of sweet and savoury ingredients used—from maple syrup and pecans to spinach and feta.

I also thought it was great that for every book sold there was a donation made to the Battery Hen Welfare Trust. I bought this secondhand so my purchase didn’t make a donation, but I always pay extra to buy genuine free-range eggs.

Page 32 introduces the chapter on kid-friendly muffins. There isn’t a page 132, so I settled on page 64 (32 x 2) and a real temptation in the ‘adults-only’ chapter. I thought it might include alcohol, but it doesn’t.

Macadamia, cherry and white chocolate muffins


White chocolate, cherry and macadamia muffins

300 g/10 oz/2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
150 g/5 oz/⅔ cup caster sugar
75 g/2¾ oz white chocolate, chopped
60 g/2 oz/½ cup dried cherries
60 g/2 oz/½ cup macadamia nuts
1 egg, beaten
100 ml/3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup soured cream
125 ml/4 fl oz/½ cup milk
85 g/3 oz butter, melted

muffin batter
muffins to bake
baked muffins
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Grease or line a 12-hole muffin pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder and sugar and sift into a large bowl. Reserve about one-quarter each of the chocolate, cherries and nuts and add the rest to the flour.

In a separate bowl or jug, lightly beat the eggs, soured cream and milk to combine, then stir in the butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir together until just combined. Spoon large dollops of the mixture into the prepared muffin pan and press the reserved chocolate, cherries and nuts into the top of each.

Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

How it played out
Sometimes I forget just how quick and easy it is to make muffins. I’ve already made these twice—once for a picnic and then again yesterday for book club at my house. In case you’re interested, this month’s book was Good Muslim Boy by Osamah Sami. You might have seen the funny yet touching movie Ali’s Wedding, which is based on part of the book.

I used macadamia nuts the first time I made this, but was out of them today so substituted chopped walnuts. I followed the rest of the recipe, using weights instead of cup measurements. Weights are so much more accurate for me.

Muffin Magic cookbook

A lovely quick recipe and a great reminder that you don’t need a boxed mix to make a yummy snack or dessert. My fellow picnickers and book clubbers definitely liked them. That said, I’d be tempted to add a little cinnamon to a future batch.

Also, I found that walnuts and macadamias work equally well. I’m sure you could substitute different dried fruits for the cherries, and plain yoghurt for the soured cream. So go on, try it and let me know! 🙂


Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Dessert, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments