Thursday, December 05, 2019

E is for eggs

As the alpharecipe challenge continues, let's think about eggs.

Like most ingredients, eggs have had their ups and downs over the years. At one stage they were accused of raising cholesterol (I don't think that's still the case?) and of course, animal welfare issues are important. I always buy free range eggs or, better still, use eggs from chickens who I know personally to be free range. Andrew and I regularly care for our friends' chickens when they are away, and they definitely roam! Anyway ... eggs. Versatile and delicious. Here are some things you can do with them ...

Brekkie ideas
eggs Benedict
Bombay toast

Lunch ideas
banana bread
cheese soufflé
corn muffins
cranberry cornbread
pumpkin loaf
pumpkin scones
lemon butter
hard boiled eggs

Dinner ideas
zucchini, basil and feta fritters
bacon and egg pie
Spanish omelette

Dessert ideas
lemon meringue pie
chocolate cheesecake
crème brûlée
orange and almond muffins
Portuguese tarts
caramel pavlova

... and of course
wattalapam (still this blog's most popular recipe of all time)

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

D is for dates

Day 4 of my alpharecipe challenge! This date loaf is one of my favourite recipes because it's super simple and perfect to whip up when you realise you have guests arriving in an hour or so. It can be served warm or cold, and also freezes well for later lunches.

1 cup dates, chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon butter
1.5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Put dates, butter and soda into a bowl. Pour boiling water over and mash slightly. Mix with flour and baking powder, pour into a loaf tin and bake about 50 minutes at 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Slice and serve with butter.

Optional: add some walnuts (or other nuts) for added flavour and crunch.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

C is for cheese, cardamom and coriander

Day 3 of my alpharecipe challenge. I realised that several of my favourite ingredients start with the letter C so am including them all ...


One of my favourite spices. Delicate and delicious. Unfortunately our friends' kids tend to reject any desserts that I make that include cardamom. More for me, I say! Here are some recipes you may like to try:

wattalapam (a Sri Lankan baked custard)
firni (a spicy rice pudding)
besan laddu (a chickpea flour fudge)
coffee and cardamom ice cream


There are so many different cheeses, and so many things you can do with them! Here are some ideas.

asparagus, mushroom and blue cheese risotto
chocolate cheesecake
tomato fondue
Portuguese tarts
vegetarian shepherd's pie
really easy pizza
beetroot, spinach and goat's cheese salad
red velvet cake
mini cheese soufflés


Coriander (also known as cilantro) is weird. People seem to love it or hate it. It's also quite difficult to grow, I've found, as the plant goes to seed very quickly. Some recipes use fresh coriander while others require the seeds (dried and ground); the two ingredients have very different flavours.

carrot and coriander soup
rice paper rolls
avocado salsa wraps
chickpea delight
coriander and green pea dip
spicy Thai salmon and lychee salad
pumpkin soup with drizzled coriander pesto
mushroom, lentil and rice casserole
spicy almonds

Nom nom.

Monday, December 02, 2019

B is for banana

The alpharecipe challenge continues ...

B is for banana. My partner likes to consume a banana each morning in his breakfast smoothie, alongside milk, Greek yoghurt and bran. Sometimes I buy too many bananas and they start to get squishy in the fruit bowl. A perfect excuse to make banana bread! Over-ripe bananas are also good in a banana sorbet, or if your bananas are fresher you could try making a Vanuatu salad.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

A is for avocado

Avocados have been in the news in recent years. An Australian social commentator, Bernard Salt, suggested (tongue in cheek ... I think?) that young people would have a better chance of successfully saving up for a house if they stopped splurging on avocado toast. While extreme frugality certainly can help in saving for a house deposit – Andrew and I barely had any travel, meals out or new clothes in the four years leading up to buying our first place together in 1996 – I don't want to weigh in on millennials' spending habits. I would, however, like to share some yummy avocado recipes!

Today's the first day of my alpharecipe blogging challenge and A is for avocado. If you haven't tried these dishes, you should. They're scrumptious ...

Avocado, lime and ginger ice cream
Avocado salsa wraps
Avocado macaroni cheese
Rocket salad with pears, blue cheese and pecans

Enjoy ;-)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The alpharecipe challenge

Despite being (very happily) free of offspring, Andrew and I do have kids in our lives. Most of our friends have children and, between us, we have three nieces and one nephew. On several occasions we've filled in for unavailable grandparents at our friends' kids' events at their schools, and last time I did this Daniel (aged 11) showed me his 'alphabiography' assignment. This was pretty cool ... for each letter of the alphabet, he had written about a person, or interest, or hobby, starting with that letter. This got me thinking. Could I do something similar – set myself a blogging challenge – where each post considered ingredients or dishes starting with particular letters?

Why not?!

So, over December I'll review this blog and post links to some of my favourite recipes. I'm hoping the exercise will remind me to revisit some forgotten dishes and maybe experiment with some new ones ...

Friday, November 22, 2019

Cranberry cornbread ... and other quick (yeast-free) loaves

Recently I spotted a recipe for gluten-free cranberry cornbread. It looked delicious but sounded like a lot of work, so (having no need to avoid gluten) I experimented and made it simpler. We're having it for lunch today and it's seriously yummy! Here's my version:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

1.5 cups buttermilk
100 grams butter, melted
2 eggs
1.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup polenta [corn meal]
0.5 cup dried cranberries

Mix all ingredients together and bake 50 to 60 minutes (test with a skewer).

If you'd like to try other yeast-free breads, I recommend these:

Banana bread
Pumpkin bread
Beer bread
Date loaf

Enjoy ;-)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

On kitchen scales ... and salted peanut butter chocolate tart

Y'know how Google spies on us all? And personalises our search findings to maximise their ad revenue? Well, sometimes they direct me to stuff I actually want! I'd recently become interested in combining three of my favourite flavours – chocolate, coconut, and peanut butter – and had been searching for dessert recipes featuring all three.

A few weeks went by and I forgot about it ... then suddenly Google recommended this recipe. Oh my goodness. It ticked all the boxes. I made the tart yesterday to take to our friends' place tonight and it hasn't disappointed. The recipe seemed geared to the vegan market, using chocolate made with 70% cocoa, coconut oil and coconut milk. I don't mind dairy products and wanted to find a less expensive alternative to maple syrup, so replaced the dark chocolate and maple syrup in the filling with milk chocolate. It worked well ...

Oh, and in case you're wondering, 1.5 cups of chocolate is roughly 200 grams. I have no idea why recipes like this one, and this one, call for cups of substances that are far easier measured by weight than by volume.

Have kitchen scales. Will cook ...

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Banana bread

What to do when you have too many over-ripe bananas? Make banana bread! This recipe has no added sugar so is probably better for you than the versions sold in cafes.

1.25 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
0.5 cup milk
3 small (or 2 large) bananas, mashed
walnuts or pecans

Mix all together thoroughly (it will still be a bit lumpy), pour into loaf tin and bake for 50 to 60 minutes at 180 degrees C.

When it is cold, slice thickly and toast lightly, then serve with (optional) butter ... yummo!

Thursday, October 03, 2019


Every time I slip into my gumboots I feel suffused with joy. When we bought our house a little over three years ago, I was both attracted to, and daunted by, the garden. It had been neglected for decades and was riddled with weeds. 

When we bought the house there was a May Bush, a straggly Banksia,
and an out-of-control tangle of ivy in the front yard

The ivy filled the front and side gardens and
was strangling the eucalypts

The back garden was also a mess ... dozens of woody weeds

We hired a green-thumbed friend to advise us on how to proceed. She suggested removing all the weeds (obviously), and drew a map showing what types of plants would thrive on each side of the house.

It's taken three years of weeding, digging, chopping and planting but the place is transformed.

At the front we still have the May Bush and the (now much healthier)
Banksia; we also have feijoa trees, ground cover plants, and edible
plants (mint, parsley, rocket, rosemary and garlic) in big pots

The woody weeds are gone from the back yard; now there
are raised garden beds with berry bushes, plus several fruit
trees which will eventually move from pots to the ground

I'm germinating seeds ... with any luck we'll have
tomatoes, pumpkins, basil and chillies soon!

It's a work in progress. I hope we'll live here for another thirty years and that the garden will keep evolving ... it's such a privilege to be able to care for this gorgeous wee space.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Brekkie @ Church Neighbourhood Goods (oh, and some photos of flowers)

It's a gorgeous spring day here so we decided to head to Floriade, Canberra's annual flower festival. As it was Sunday morning we also wanted to grab some breakfast on the way, so tried out a new (for us) cafe, Church Neighbourhood Goods. It's tucked in a laneway in Civic ... very Melbourne-esque! Both the food and the service were excellent.

He had:

Overnight oats

while she had:

Winter 'shrooms

and we both enjoyed their excellent coffee:

Floriade was good too ;-)

Canberra. Beautiful one day, beautiful the next. So glad we live here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Silly things people ate in the seventies

The Lifeline bookfair is a Canberra institution. Three times each year, Canberra book lovers gather to peruse and buy all manner of fabulous secondhand books. Andrew and I have been volunteering behind the scenes for about 14 years; we price and pack books on weekends, and make ourselves available for heavy lifting before and after each fair. The bookfairs raise vital funds for Lifeline's 24/7 crisis support lines.

Among the huge range of books on sale at each fair, there are always lots of cookbooks, and at last weekend's fair our friends picked up a CWA cookbook, with some glee. We found some truly bizarre sounding recipes so decided that the coming weekend's collaborative dinner should comprise fish finger pie (made by our friends) and lime jelly cheesecake (made by us). Well, the recipe was for lemon jelly cheesecake but Andrew doesn't like lemons much, so we opted for a lime version.

Andrew and I made the cheesecake on Saturday afternoon and took it to our friends' place on Sunday night. Our friends, in turn, delighted us all with their fish finger pie! One of the weirdest meals we've ever eaten ... comfort food squared. We enjoyed the feast, though the cheesecake received mixed reviews from our friends' kids. Ah well.

Fish finger pie (with some tinned mushy peas to add a splash of colour):

Lime jelly cheesecake:

The cheesecake was huge so we have some leftovers to eat tonight. Yum ;-)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Splashing the Josh dosh

This year the Australian Liberal government (that's Liberal, meaning conservative, rather than liberal, meaning left-leaning) bribed Australian taxpayers to vote it in for yet another three-year term by offering immediate tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners. Personally, I would rather they'd spent the money on increasing welfare rather than tossing money at people with above-subsistence incomes. Nevertheless, as a recipient of some of treasurer Josh Frydenberg's largesse I felt duty-bound to spend the money in my local economy to help ward off the coming recession. Not being a fan of stuff, here's how I invested the dosh:

Cheers. Here's hoping my efforts were helpful.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Cheese scones. A triumph!

About 15 years ago, my partner Andrew spotted a smallish book on sale at our local supermarket. First Principles – The 'Basics' Cooking Handbook, by Victoria Hansen. I think he was drawn to the science-y title! We bought it on the spot and it's become a valuable reference whenever we need step by step instructions to cook something, well, basic. It describes how to make things like sauces, soups, biscuits, cakes, dumplings, quiches, risottos ... providing a simple recipe and encouraging the home cook to introduce variations.

I frequently reach for this book, even after 40+ years of cooking

Today I have a brief lull between editing jobs so grabbed the book, turned to page 186, and made cheese scones! They were quick, easy, fluffy and delicious. Two thirds of them went into the freezer for future lunches and one third became today's lunch. I'm also still basking in having a new oven that is so much more competent than the old one ;-)