Monthly Archives: March 2015

Overcooked quinoa 2 ways.

overcooked quinoa

I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, but I added double the recommended amount of water to cook some quinoa the other day. Having spied some preserved lemons at the back of the fridge, I was intending to make a Morroccan inspired salad to go with some lamb cutlets. Then besides dinner, I got stuck in to other household chores, rushing to get them done before Thea woke up and totally forgot about the simmering pot on the stove. After a sharp intake of breath when I remembered the intended base for the salad, which now resembled a mass of tiny, sludgy, beige pearls, I composed myself and set about thinking what the hell was I going to do with a mound of overcooked quinoa.

overcooked quinoa

I’m not one to waste food, which drives Mark crazy. He despairs with all the little parcels of leftovers in the fridge, but I always find a use for them. Stale sourdough bread is consistently made into crumbs for schnitzels, the ends of cheese are grated to go into a smelting pot in the freezer for pizza, cheese sauce and the occasional toasted sandwich and leftover gravy is added to béchamel sauce for robust green leafed  vegetable gratins that I love to serve with roast pork.  Faced with the watery, stodgy, flavourless mound of pseudo grains, I thought about what they resembled and in turn might be converted into. The mushy quinoa seemed like it would work well in place of mashed potato to make salmon cakes. And the fishcakes could be spiked with preserved lemon, capers, dil and parsley, punchy ingredients that would transform the bland pile into something edible once again. Some crisp green leaves would form a complete evening meal and once again dinner was back on track.

overcooked quinoa

But wait. That’s not all. After making six large salmon fishcakes, I still had oodles of overcooked quinoa left. I started to wonder if I’d added four times the amount of water I was supposed to! That or I’d had a brain freeze and cooked enough for a large catering order. Either way, another recipe was needed to make use of what still remained. With the tiny person still asleep, I embarked upon another dish. This time a recipe from the Petite kitchen cookbook for Cheddar and quinoa muffins with sun dried tomatoes and basil. Single serve snacks that could be put in the freezer for when a tummy rumble struck. They’re very simple and quick to make and baked in little paper cases, an entirely portable snack.

overcooked quinoa

After all the huffing and puffing and scolding of myself for not having set a timer for the quinoa, I was now able to survey my kitchen bench burdened with dinner, possible lunches and enough snacks for the foreseeable future. Hindsight usually reveals mistakes to be entirely perfect in their outcome.

overcooked quinoa

 Salmon fishcakes – a recipe using overcooked quinoa.

4 cups (over)cooked quinoa
2 fillets of cooked salmon, flaked
A handful of chopped parsley
A handful of chopped dill
1-2 tbs chopped capers
1 preserved lemon, rind finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and then shape into tennis ball size fish cakes.

I will confess that I tried to pan fry one of the salmon cakes, imagining that it would go crisp and chewy. This was not the case as the patties were too wet from, ahem, the overcooked quinoa. Baking resulted in a much better result.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180C.

Enjoy with a crisp green leaf salad.

Cheddar and quinoa muffins with sun dried tomatoes and basil.

From My Petite Kitchen Cookbook by Eleanor Ozich

540g cooked quinoa
4 eggs
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
2 large handfuls basil, chopped
40g sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and then divide among the holes of paper lined muffin tin.

Makes approximately 6 large and 12 mini muffins.

Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes.

The best roast lamb ever.

the best roast lamb ever

I have been wanting to share this recipe with you for a while. Well, it’s more of a technique really. A way to cook the best roast lamb ever. It requires no effort. None. Apart from actually going to your butcher and buying a leg of lamb or three, getting a roasting tray and some foil ready and turning on the oven. That’s it. And the results are worthy of any dinner table. Tender, moist, flavoursome lamb that falls away from the bone with the touch of a feather. The thing that makes this lamb so great, apart from the ease with which it’s cooked, is the time that it gives you once it is done. It will happily sit on the kitchen bench wrapped in foil and a beach towel for hours. YES really, while you, well, get ready for the party!

the best roast lamb ever

The thing about once having been a cafe owner is that you get to repeat tasks over and over again, and you become quite skilled at certain recipes. By making mistakes and learning from them, you get even better too and realise what works and what certainly does not. So having cooked lamb like this to fill wraps along with tabbouleh and minted yoghurt many, many times, the process has become second nature, but the results are no less memorable.

the best roast lamb ever

I think the whole process of cooking lamb for lengthy periods of time first started after reading Paula Wolfert’s recipe for Seven Hour Garlic Crowned Lamb in her wonderful book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. Again I read Alice Waters‘ thorough explanation of slow cooking shoulder joints in her book The Art of Simple Food and somehow combined the two accounts to create a method where I could put lamb in the oven just before I went to bed and then take it out first thing in the morning ready to take to the cafe with me to satisfy lunch time customers. The technique is well tested.


Preparing lamb in this way has also become a favourite dish with some of my regular chef by the sea catering clients. Perhaps because even though the meat in itself is a spectacular but understated main, it’s the perfect partner to such a wide array of sides. Complemented by smoky baba ganoush or piquant chimichurri, at home with roast potatoes or herby quinoa, side by side with shredded kale, barbecued corn or roast pumpkin, on a plate for lunch and in a roll for dinner. It’s a perfect entertaining staple. And I hope that it serves you well.

the best roast lamb ever the best roast lamb ever the best roast lamb ever a cheese cake a cheese cake

The best roast lamb ever

For this recipe, which is more anecdotal than a precise list of steps, you will need three things.

  1. A whole leg or shoulder of lamb, bone in.
  2. A deep baking tray
  3. Aluminium foil

Preheat your oven to it’s hottest setting, so somewhere around 250 C. My oven is like a furnace, which for some things is actually fantastic, like caramelising the outside of a joint of meat before leaving it to braise in a few inches of water for the day or overnight.

While the oven is preheating, place the meat in the baking tray and when the oven’s little light goes out to indicate the right temperature has been reached, pop your joint of meat in for 20 minutes.

When 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the meat from the oven and turn the temperature down to about 100 C. The first time you do this you may need to use an oven thermometer to calibrate the point where your oven cooks at the is temperature, because for me this heat is not actually any temperature indicated on my oven’s dial, but rather marked with a Sharpie from having worked it out many times before.

Before putting your meat back into the oven, fill the baking tray with about two inches of water and cover it tightly with foil. Now put it back into the oven and you can leave the lamb to cook anywhere from six to 12 hours.

Before serving the lamb, and I believe this detail to be just as important as the initial 20 minute heat blast, remove it from the oven and its baking tray, place it on a deep platter, wrap it in foil and cover it with a towel. I have even placed the lamb in a suitable plastic container and popped it in an esky to rest and keep warm. It will sit quite happily for a few hours and still be piping hot, but succulently moist when you come to serve it.

And to serve, simply use two forks or a pair of tongs and help yourself.

Enjoy x

Making vanilla ice cream

This post is both thoroughly practical and deeply personal. It’s about making vanilla ice cream from scratch and reminiscing about my childhood. For most people, memories of their younger years and ice cream are closely intertwined. For me this is especially true. I can recall cones of ice cream after a day at the beach building sandcastles, jelly and ice cream in little plastic bowls eaten on the grass at friend’s birthday parties and nibbling the crunchy chocolate off choc ices that I was allowed to stow in the freezer during school holidays. The ice cream I remember the most though towered high above me in an elongated, scalloped edge, sundae glass. I needed to kneel on my chair and use the long handled spoon to delve into the layers of strawberry and vanilla ice cream, raspberry jelly, fruit and whipped cream that was topped with chopped nuts, hundreds and thousands, sticky, sweet bright red strawberry sauce, wafers and a cherry. A Knickerbocker Glory. A favourite treat on a family outing that I always savoured with complete delight. But to understand why I’m telling you about childhood memories of ice cream, I must first start with my new year’s resolutions for 2015.

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At the start of this year, feeling like an entirely different person with nearly a month’s worth of sleeping through the night, thanks to Thea’s new and improved sleeping pattern, I decided that it was time to focus on some goals. Really make 2015 a great year and accomplish some long aspired to ambitions. So I went to the dentist. Saw an optician. Set up a new filing system. Started squad swimming. Joined surfing mums. Embarked on a training plan for the Sydney marathon. And, I went to see a kinesiologist. As well as sorting things on a physical level, I wanted to make sure that emotionally, everything was in alignment and that no negative subconscious thoughts were holding me back from being my best self. One thing that transpired during my session was that at the age of 12 something had affected the little girl that I was and she had ‘left’. I was told to do something nice for that 12 year old child to welcome her into my life again. Thinking back to those times, I can remember some painful events and whether you believe in spiritual healing or not, to me doing something for my younger self seemed like rather a lovely idea. It’s so easy to get lost in the world of adulthood and responsibility and ignore our more immature inclinations. So when I got home, I decided to make myself a Knickerbocker Glory, the treat that I remember so fondly from my childhood.

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But if I was recreating the sundae of my childhood, I was going to do it properly and that meant making the vanilla ice cream. This is an easy task. I promise. And there are two pieces of equipment that make it really easy. A stand mixer and a digital thermometer. The stand mixer allows you to get on with other tasks while it does the job of doubling the yolks and sugar in size. Like chasing after your toddler as she empties the contents of the kitchen cupboards. Hand held beaters work equally as well, but don’t let you multitask and mixing the yolks and sugar takes about 10 minutes. The digital thermometer I find vital in securing a smooth as silk vanilla ice cream. Without one I have overcooked the eggs in the custard many times, which results in a slightly grainy ice cream. Another thing I have found that is really important when making ice cream is to cool the custard completely before you churn it. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward task with stunning results.

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making vanilla ice creamFilling my little sundae glass with jelly, strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream made me feel like a little kid. My husband laughed at me as I got hundreds and thousands all over the kitchen bench and I had to laugh at myself too. But what fun. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I melted chocolate to shamelessly drizzle over my strawberries. Oh and did I mention the layer of pineapple in between the jelly and ice cream and the whipped cream I piped on top. I revelled in every mouthful of my sundae with juevenile delight, even going back for more hundreds and thousands, just because I could. Eating the ice cream brought back memories of plastic buckets with castle like turrets, spades with strong wooden handles so that I could dig really deep holes, multicoloured foil windmills whirring in the breeze, determined dam building in the sand, donkeys with their soft as velvet ears and the joy of being a child at the beach. Whether or not my recreation of a Knickerbocker Glory pleased my 12 year old self of not I’ll never know, it sure as hell delighted the 36 year old me.



Vanilla ice cream

Adapted from Ice creams, Sorbets and Gelati

  • 300ml milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 90g panella (or any unrefined sugar, I just think panela gives the ice cream wonderful depth of flavour)
  • 5 egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for meringue)
  • 250 ml cream

First of all, fill your sink with some cold water. Just a few inches.

Now, start by pouring the milk into a pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthways in half and scrape the seeds into the milk. I also add the seed pods once I have scraped them to extract every last bit of flavour. Set the milk over a low heat and slowly bring to the boil. When the milk boils, turn the heat off.

While the milk is infusing, whisk the sugar and yolks until thick, pale in colour and doubled in size.

Now remove the vanilla seed pod from the milk. You can wash it and leave it to dry and then keep it with your sugar to give it a gorgeous aroma. Bring the milk back to the boil and then transfer to a jug so that you can pour it in a steady steam into the yolk mixture. Do this whilst whisking at the same time.

Pour the resulting custard back into the pot and place over a gentle heat. With one hand hold a digital thermometer in the custard and with the other constantly stir your ice cream base. When the temperature reaches 85C, remove the pot from the heat and plunge the base into the cold water in the sink. This will stop the custard cooking and is very useful if you do accidentally over heat your custard.

Pour the cooked custard into a jug and put in the fridge to chill. When the custard has completely cooled you can add the cream and churn. The most wonderful part of making your own ice cream is that as soon as it’s frozen, you can dip a spoon into the chilled vanilla mixture and enjoy. The best.