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Friday, 30 November 2012

Moist Christmas Cake

I will be honest I have been marinading the fruit in lashings of Cointreau for 2 weeks now, just waiting for the time to make my cake. My girlfriend Jacquie and I have been making this cake forever, its our little Xmas ritual and hopefully we will continue to do it for a long time.
It always surprises me how many of my girlfriends have never made a Xmas cake, mostly because they have a Mum around who does it for them. Well, Jacquie and I both moved to Sydney a very long time ago, away from our Mums, so we decided that we had better get busy with the cake otherwise it was never to be. I love fruit cake probably more than any other cake, and the ceremony of the preparation which we have. When the children were much younger they would all have a stir and the adults would have a few glasses of bubbles as we worked. The tradition has changed a little as the children are all adults now except for one, and are too busy, for something seemingly so unimportant ! The workers still enjoy a glass or two of bubbles and everyone would be devastated if we didn't make the cake.
I have made many different recipes for fruit cake, but this one is our adaption of an old Women's Weekly one and I think we have perfected it.
The amount of fruit will make two cakes, so invite a girlfriend or a sister to join you, or halve the ingredients. You can marinade the fruit for three weeks. You can also make it three months ahead. I have never been that organised and it's very hard to get the glace fruit that far ahead. A couple of days is fine a week would be great. Glace fruit is available at any good health food shop. I will post a photo of the cake when I have made it !

6 cups sultanas or 1 kilo
2  1/2 cups currants
2 cups raisins
1  1/2 cups  seeded dates
1 cup seeded prunes
4  1/2 cups glace fruit this can consist of glace pineapple, pears, apricots, peaches but must contain some cherries and ginger.... about 1/2 cup of each or a little more of your favourite
3 medium apples grated
grated rind of 3 oranges
2/3 cup fig jam
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups of brown sugar
2 tablespoons mixed spice
1  3/4 cups Cointreau

Chop all of the glace and dried fruit into chunks, not too small and all similar size, cherries in half. Leave raisins, sultanas and currants whole. Put them all into a large tupperware or similar plastic lidded container, mix in the jam, rind of orange, grated apple, lemon juice, sugar spice and Cointreau. Stir well to combine, cover and set aside in the pantry and stir every second day.

1/2 Quantity of fruit mixture .. for one cake
250 grams melted cooled butter
5 eggs beaten slightly
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2-3 tablespoons Cointreau

Preheat the oven to slow 160C. I don't use fan forced for a fruit cake.
Line a square or round tin with paper, internally on the bottom and sides. Cut the bottom to fit. I use 2-3 layers of paper. Either use Glad Bake or brown paper which you will have to grease. Extend the paper to come up the sides of the tin about 5 cms.

Place the basic fruit mixture in a large bowl and mix in the butter and eggs, then the sifted flour in two batches. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake uncovered for about 3 hours. Brush with the Cointreau and cover the tin in foil. Cool overnight and turn out. Every oven is different, you may need to cover the cake with foil or Glad bake in the last hour as it may be catching and burning on top. If you can smell the cake, it usually is pretty close to being cooked. If your oven is really hot, turn it down a bit and cook a little longer. You don't want it to be burnt on the outside and not cooked in the middle. I really hope this becomes a favourite !

Friday, 23 November 2012


After an abundance of Thai food lately, I thought I would venture to another country, Greece ! I had some lamb mince and some beautiful glossy eggplants and decided to cook a moussaka, a dish I haven't done for years ! We had forgotten how delicious and family friendly this simple dish is, and even better the next day.
You can use beef mince if you want, but for me it is not the same. The lamb makes it a little sweet and is more authentic. I served it with a Greek style salad, mixed leaves with shavings of fine red onion and some big juicy kalamata olives and slices of cucumber. Toss a little feta on top to finish.

1 kilo lamb mince
2 large potatoes
2 eggplants or one large
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
2 cups tomato passata,
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup white wine
Rylstone olive oil
salt and pepper

60 grams butter
60 grams plain flour
2 -  2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup  grated parmesan or romano cheese
pinch of nutmeg

Slice the eggplant in long thin slices and lay on a paper towel and salt. Set aside for half an hour. Peel and thinly slice the potato. Cover the potato in water to stop it discolouring.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Add the lamb mince and cook until browned. Add the tomato, cinnamon, oregano, parsley, white wine and salt and pepper. Simmer for about half an hour. This step can be done well ahead, even the day before.
Pat the eggplant dry with paper towel and heat a good amount of olive oil in a fry pan. Fry the eggplant slices until cooked and drain on fresh paper towel. Eggplant does soak up quite a bit of oil, so make sure the oil is hot before placing the eggplant into it.
Fry the thin potato slices in the same pan and set aside.

To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the plain flour to make a roux. Warm the milk slightly in the microwave and add slowly to the roux beating continually to stop any lumps forming. If you don't heat the milk, remove the roux from the heat and add the milk when the saucepan has cooled a little. When the sauce is thick and creamy add the cheese and nutmeg beating into the mixture to combine. The bechamel should be quite thick.

Use approx a 2 litre baking dish. Layer half the eggplant on the bottom, overlapping if necessary.
Next layer the potatoes and half the mince. Press the mince down a little with the back of the spoon.
Add the rest of the eggplant in a layer, then the remaining mince. Again press down with the back of the spoon. Finally add the bechamel. It should come to the top of the dish.

Cook for 45 minutes in a 175C oven. You may want to place it on a flat oven tray to catch any spills
as it will bubble over. Enjoy !

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thailand Food Tour 2013

After months of preparation I'm very proud to announce my very first cooking food Tour of Thailand which commences in March next year. We begin the tour in vibrant Bangkok where we stroll through local markets specialising in different ingredients used in traditional Thai cooking. Throughout the day we will sample a variety of delicious street eats and learn about the history and culture of the various communities that make up Thailand. Bi-lingual guides will take us on daily adventures as we learn to cook Thai food in hands on cooking classes. Dine in some of Bangkok's fabulous restaurants, and  enjoy the dishes they are famous for. 

Our accommodation is in gorgeous spa hotels where a little pampering can be enjoyed after a days outing. We will mix it up with some shopping and a little culture. We also venture north to the beautiful city of Chiang Mai for a more laid back totally different experience. 

Come on an fun filled adventure with like minded people, and a holiday experience you won't forget.

For those of you who are interested in joining me for the forthcoming tour to Thailand in March 2013
or on any future tours please contact me for a full itinerary on my email at

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Red Braised Pork with Vegetable Stir Fry and Crackling

Braising stocks have become a staple in my kitchen and  I would like to share this red braising stock with you. I have done this recipe with beef brisket which is also to die for. Once you have all the ingredients, which I am sure I say all the time, you can make this very quickly and do it well ahead of time. The stock can be strained and used again. The meat is so succulent and full of flavour . There won't be a person who doesn't want more and ask you for the recipe. You simply can't go wrong. If you happen to have any left, which I guarantee you won't, it is still beautiful the next day.
All of the ingredients are available at an Asian supermarket and are very inexpensive. Shaoxing wine you can get for 99 cents sometimes normally  $1.99. Stock up and keep these ingredients on hand.

1 piece of boned pork leg with rind. The size depending on the number of people you are feeding, as long as it fits in to your pot. Alternatively buy a few smaller ones
If purchasing from a butcher get him to cut off the rind and keep to roast separately, otherwise do it yourself, its very easy. NOTE if you keep the boned leg rolled up it will slice quite nicely. If you choose not too it will be chunky pieces of meat as it is falling apart when cooked , this is also very acceptable and will happen if you use a pork shoulder not rolled up too.

6 litre water
3 cups Shaoxing wine
1 cup mushroom soy sauce
2 cups light soy sauce
2 cups of rock sugar
10 bruised garlic cloves
1 red onion chopped into 8
6 shallots, chopped into large pieces
1 cup chopped ginger
1 piece dried orange or tangerine peel
6 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks

Use a large boiling pot on top of the stove. Place all of the ingredients into the water and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes to infuse all the flavours. Place the pork into the stock and simmer gently for 2.5 hours. Turn off and leave in the liquid until ready to serve.
Oil and salt the pork rind and place in a baking dish in a hot oven and cook until it is crackled. Break up into largish chunks and set aside.
These amounts for the vegetables are a guide only you can feed six generously with the following amount.

1/4 butternut pumpkin sliced and cut in half again
1 bunch choy sum
1 bunch buk choy
1 red capsicum, finely sliced
250 grams sliced mushrooms
2 cm piece finely chopped ginger
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 sliced red onion
2 bunches broccolini
1 bunch asparagus,each stalk chopped into 3 pieces
1/2 cup Lee Kum Kee vegetable stir fry sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil

I use a wok, chop vegetables roughly. Heat oil in the wok and gently fry garlic, onion and ginger.
Add the pumpkin first with the stir fry sauce and simmer gently. You can precook a little in the microwave first if short of time. Add broccolini and the capsicum. Toss frequently through the sauce to cook. Add the asparagus, and mushrooms and lastly the buk choy and choy sum. They will wilt pretty quickly so make sure the other vegetables are cooked through.
Turn out onto a platter, leaving the remaining sauce in the wok. Add 1/2 cup of the red braising stock to the stir fry sauce and reduce slightly over a high heat.

Reheat the pork at serving time in the braising stock. Remove and slice to serve garnishing with some star anise and chopped spring onions. Drizzle over the sauce you've reduced slightly in the wok.

Place the stir fried vegetables on a platter and garnish with large chunks of the crispy pork crackling

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Barbequed Beef Ribs

These ribs are a family favourite and the recipe comes from my brother in law Matt. A cook of some repute we always look forward to a meal my sisters place. Matt and Gilli make a great team in the kitchen. They have a Tandoor oven and we have had some fun lunches creating absolutely delicious meals from the oven. We may even try these at a later date with an Indian slant to them. Another favourite appliance is their pressure cooker which they use to create that fabulous shredded beef for Mexican meals and for this particular recipe. Of course the pressure cooker cuts the cooking time, allowing for pre preparation and for entertaining ones guests.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, don't worry you can pre prep, in the oven. Use a baking dish and cover it tightly with foil. They look a little messy but don't be deceived they are very moorish and you will want to make them again and again. The hardest part is finding a butcher who will do these meaty ribs, you may have to order them in advance. Chipotle chilli are available in jars and have a slightly smokey flavour to them, use any chilli if unavailable, or some hickory would be good, which you can buy at some barbeque stores or good delis. Serve with some barbequed corn cobs, beautiful at this time of year ! Maybe a bean salad or a fab potato salad. The 2.5 kg of ribs would feed four adults, easily doubled or tripled.
The precooking can be done well in advance.
If you do happen to have a pressure cooker prepare as follows

2.5 kgs meaty beef ribs
water and one  beef stock cube
Cook for 30 minutes and set aside.

If you don't have a pressure cooker
Cook them in a baking dish with 2 cups of beef stock and cover tightly with foil.
Cook on 120C for 1.5 hours.


3/4 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Chipotle Chilli

Prepare marinade, whisk all the ingredients together, and heat slightly to melt sugar. Set aside.
Marinade the ribs and continue brushing with the marinade whilst barbequing, for approx 15 minutes.Watch them go!!!