Corned Beef (Silverside)

The final result.

Corned Beef is one of those dishes that seems to have become a regular on my family meal rota – which is strange.

When I was a child I hated the stuff with a vengeance. Although I could be persuaded to eat it if, and only if, my mother was calling it Cane Cutter’s Ham.

I don’t know why.

I then lived alone for several decades and only attempted to cook it twice during that period. Both times were for visits by my step-father and, while he said it was great, I thought it was less than ordinary on both occasions.

I’ve got better at it in this stage of my life. Firstly, I’ve stopped cooking the vegetables that accompany it in the same pot as the meat. This means that there is a different flavour for everything on the plate, instead of a meal-wide sameness that resembles the next step to gastronomic zombieville.

Roasted veg.

Roasted veg.

I’ve also started adding a few more flavourings to the pot, some of which elevate the dish to heavenly status.

I kiddest thou not.

The best part is that I inevitably have enough leftover to make several more meals from the same piece of meat: fritters and almost fried rice spring to mind, it’s also a nifty addition to pasta bakes or on lunch box sandwiches.

One and a half kilos of meal options.

One and a half kilos of meal options.

I inevitably cook mine in a slow cooker but it can, of course, be cooked on the stove for a much shorter time. I like being able to put it on to cook of a morning and then walking away for the rest of the day until I’m ready to serve it up.

Go with your muse on this one.

So, to cook a piece of corned beef, you first need to find a pot big enough to put it in. Make sure it’s one that will take the beef, any flavourings you may use and enough water to cover the lot of it. In the photograph, I’m using a 3 litre slow cooker that has a tall, narrow crock.

First find a roomy pot.

First find a roomy pot.

I know it looks kind of yucky. This one was vacuum packed and had a fair amount of jelly around it. Don’t wash it off, just put the whole lot into your pot.

Now, generally, I would put the flavourings in first and then add the meat, But I didn’t do that for the pictures. I’m sorry if it confuses anyone. Also, none of the vegetables I’m about to add to the pot are destined to be eaten. They’re simply there to add flavour to the meat.

Got it? Good.

To the pot I add a stick of celery, cut into largish bits.



A carrot treated similarly.



Then an onion. All of these may be kept whole if you have the room in your pot.



Now add 6 peppercorns or 6 whole cloves. If you’re keen, you can add both. My mother would stud the onion with the cloves, but I don’t have the dexterity for that.

I also add some fennel seeds and a star anise.

A touch of spice.

A touch of spice.

Then a tablespoon or so (a glug) of apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar.

And then the piéce de resistance!  An orange.

Yes, really. A chef former neighbour gave me this tip a year or so ago and I kiss her feet for it. (Thanks Kath!)

An orange. OMG.

An orange. OMG.

This will add a certain something that will lift your corned beef into the stratosphere of flavour. Trust me on this.

Now pop in a Bay Leaf and cover with cold water.

This is why I usually put the oranges in before the beef...

This is why I usually put the oranges in before the beef…

Put the lid on and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours. Your kitchen will start to smell amazing.  I promise.

The final result.

The final result.

When it is done, simply remove from the pot, slice and serve. As you can see, the vegetables don’t look like you’d really want them on your plate…

Slice and serve.

Slice and serve.

Traditionally, Corned Beef is served with a white or mustard sauce. However, the other person in this household doesn’t really like sauces…

The meat does tend to dry out a little once sliced, so I simply spoon a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the meat on the plate. Not enough to drown it, mind!

It keeps the meat moist and gives a further hit of flavour.

Sunday night feast?

Sunday night feast?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Corned Beef

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1 kg silverside/corned beef (this recipe will also work for larger cuts)

1 large onion, chopped

1 large stick of celery, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 medium to large orange, quartered

6 whole cloves (these may be inserted into the onion if you wish); or

6 peppercorns – or both

1 star anise

½ tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 bay leaf


Add all the ingredients to a pot large enough to hold the meat and flavourings.

Cover with cold water.

Bring slowly to the boil and simmer with the lid on until the meat is tender. (Approx. 2 hours for a 1 kg cut on the stove top)

If using a slow cooker set on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours.

When cooked to your preference, remove from water, slice and serve.

May be served with a mustard sauce or with some of the pot juices spooned over the meat.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


This recipe will work for any pickled or salted cut of meat.


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I don't think Garfield would mind this.

Hello, my dears.

Last night I went to a friend’s birthday do and so didn’t cook. I believe The Boy had something from the fridge to eat – but he can’t remember what. Sigh.

Today we went to visit some peeps in another town and I made some Hidden Treasure Muffins to take with us. They seem to be on high rotation lately.

As a result, I need to add condensed milk and muffin cases to my list for next week.

When we got home, I was close to death from this virus that seems to have me in its clutches, so I really didn’t feel like preparing anything.

However, we had the leftover meat sauce from Wednesday night in the fridge and the ricotta that I didn’t use at the pasta-making class, so I combined the two.

Meat sauce in dish

Meat sauce in dish.

I layered the meat sauce with the ricotta and some pasta sheets into a lasagne-type arrangement.

Plain ricotta.

Plain ricotta.

Then I baked it for 40 minutes or so, before scattering breadcrumbs and shredded parmesan over the top.

Crunchy topping

Crunchy topping.

It was baked for a further 10 minutes and then served.  I can’t say I was impressed with it – the ricotta really didn’t hit the mark as a bechamel sauce substitute – but it was adequate.

I don't think Garfield would mind this.

I don’t think Garfield would mind this.

Our tummies were full of something wholesome and I get to go to bed happy. There are now two serves of this in the freezer as well for future unplanned-for meals.

Tomorrow I hope to publish a post on cornbread cobbler, which is a great way of stretching out a stew or chilli or even of rehashing it; as I just did with this meat sauce.

Don’t hold me to it though, my throat is on fire right now….

Asian Spiced Meatballs

These little darlings are something you can mix up in bulk and freeze in advance.

They take a tiny bit of time, and can be a little icky to prepare (especially if you don’t like handling raw meat), but are totally worth it.

These meatballs can be made as large or as small as you like and you may use any ground meat you happen to have,.

I developed this with chicken mince – mostly because I am not a fan of chicken.

Sue me.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled if you want. You might even want to enslave, exploit, encourage your children to help roll them once they’re mixed.

So, here we go. Pay attention and don’t blink or you’ll miss something…

Dump your minced/ground meat into a suitable bowl. Then add a good spoonful each of minced garlic and crushed ginger. I always have little jars of those two things in my refrigerator.

However, you can use fresh if you prefer.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Mix through thoroughly. You may want to use a fork for this to help you break up the meat properly and distribute the flavourings more evenly.

Then add a good shaking of whatever spices you think you’d like. My standards are ground cumin, ground coriander and a few chilli flakes – you may like to use a garam masala, or add ground ginger as well; finely chopped parsley or coriander/cilantro also make good additions.

Go for it. Use what you know you like.

Spice it up.

Spice it up.

Mix that through. You don’t need to be gentle, in fact being a little on the rough side will help to develop the proteins in the meat and make it all stick together better.

You can skip this next step if you wish, but you might like to add a generous glug of an Asian-style sauce.

Get saucy.

Get saucy.

As you can see, I used hoi sin for this batch. You could use teriyaki, soy sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce or even sweet chilli sauce if you want. Or none at all – it’s not necessary but it does show what can be done.

Mix through with the fork again, and then give it a good stir with a spoon or spatula. You’ll notice it all start coming together nicely.

Now, with wet hands, create mandarin-sized balls of meat – wet your hands between meat balls and it will go easier. The wetness helps stop the meat from sticking.

Have a ball.

Have a ball.

You may wish to wear disposable gloves. You may even find it easier to use a large ice cream scoop to measure them out onto a plate all at once and to just finish them off in your hands.

Do what you feel comfortable with.

You can freeze them at this point, if you wish.

If you want to eat them now, then gently heat a pan or griddle that has been lightly brushed or sprayed with oil.

Oil up.

Oil up.

Then add your meat balls, pressing down lightly to flatten them slightly. Set a timer for 4 mins and then LEAVE THEM ALONE. Just let them cook while you do other things, like set the table or something.

At the four minute mark, turn them over. They should lift easily. If they stick, let them sit a minute or so more and try again. Set your timer for another 4 minutes.



When the timer goes off for the second time they’re ready to serve.

I like to serve with steamed rice and veggies. In this instance, I’ve tinted the rice with a touch of turmeric in the water.

Make a meal out of it.

Make a meal out of it.

They are also quite nice served as a burger.


Asian-spiced meatballs

  • Servings: 4-6 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


250 g ground meat (minced beef, pork or chicken)

1 tsp minced garlic (from a jar)

1 tsp crushed ginger (from a jar)

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp chilli flakes

(or any other spices you’d like to add)

1-2 tbsps thick Asian flavoured sauce, optional.(kecap manis, sweet chilli sauce, Hoi Sin sauce, Teriyaki sauce, etc)


Place meat into a medium bowl. Add garlic and ginger and mix in well with a fork.

Add spices, and mix well.

Add sauce if wished and mix well.

Mix until the meat starts to stick together and form a large ball.

With wet hands, form into four meatballs (for this amount of meat.) If you prefer, use a large ice cream scoop to measure out and finish forming them in hands using disposable gloves.

(you can’t get around touching the meat in some way. Sorry.)

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat and oil lightly. An oil spray would be ideal.

When the pan is hot, add the meatballs – pressing lightly to flatten slightly. Do not crowd the pan.

Leave to cook for 4 mins.

Turn and cook the other side for a further 4 mins.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

To flash freeze:

Cover a dinner plate with grease proof paper, such as baking parchment, and place meatballs on it so that they are not touching.

Put the dinner plate into the freezer for 30 mins. There is no need to cover the plate.

After 30 mins, remove the meatballs to a ziploc bag.

Seal and return to freezer.

By partially freezing the balls you will ensure that they won’t stick together in the bag. This means you can remove just the number you need.

Ensure they are fully defrosted before cooking.

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Chilli con Carne (Budget Bounty style)

Dinner is served.

First off, let me get one thing clear: Chilli con Carne means Chilli with meat.

There is no such thing as Vegetarian Chilli con Carne.

There. I feel better now.

This is a dish I have adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes out of his book, Happy Days with the Naked Chef. I pretty much follow his recipe but get rid of a lot of fiddling around.

I’m sure he’d approve.

I also tend to cook it in a slow cooker, but I’m guessing that this surprises precisely no-one.

My step-father is a fiend for chilli. When I lived in Canberra, and knew he was driving up from Melbourne to see me, I would get this dish to the long simmer stage the night before and pop it in the fridge overnight. I’d put it in the slow cooker on low just before I went to work in the morning and it would be gorgeous by the time I got home to find him waiting for me.

Nowadays, I find it perfect for cold to just-bordering-on-utterly-miserable days. Put it on early and leave it to do its thing until you’re ready to eat. In the meantime, your home smells gorgeous.

Leftovers are not to be scoffed at.

Leftovers are not to be scoffed at.

You can cook this on the stove top, in the oven or in the slow cooker (3 litre size for this recipe). Whatever works for you.

It makes a whole heap, so you can feed a crowd, make a ton of leftovers to eat during the week for a singleton or individual frozen meals for future famines of inspiration.

Start with a chopping board, a knife and some vegies. If you intend to cook this on the stove or in the oven, you’ll want a Dutch oven style pot with a tight-fitting lid. Get your slow cooker set up if that’s what you’d prefer to use. In this case I also put the cooker on low and empty the tins of tomatoes into it – just to get it warmed up and going.

Get your slow cooker on-line.

Get your slow cooker on-line.

Now, dice up an onion, a stick of celery and a carrot as finely as you like (or are able).

Start by sauteeing the trinity.

Start by sauteeing the trinity.

Heat your pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil. (Use a frying pan for this stage if you intend to slow cook.)

Add your chopped vegetables and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. I don’t mind if this comes from a jar. Cook gently until the onion softens and becomes translucent.

Now add your minced beef. You’ll want about half a kilo or a pound of meat to serve four. Continue to fry, stirring gently to brown the meat almost all the way through. I like to push the vegetables aside at first, but do what works for you.

Once it is browned sufficiently, you can add a mix of ground cumin, chilli powder and fresh chilli OR you can use whatever commercial chilli blend you prefer. Make it as hot or as mild as you wish, but add the spices at this stage to fully release the aromatic oils that they contain.

Add your meat and spices.

Add your meat and spices.

Mix it all together as thoroughly as you can, just to get those flavours a little more melded.

Looking good.

Looking good.

If you are using the slow cooker, then transfer your mixture into it now. Add the contents of 2 x 400 g tins of diced tomatoes and a small jar of sun-ripened tomato pesto.

I get the latter from Aldi. It only costs $2 and is quite affordable for the punch of flavour it gives. You may wish to drain off some of the oil from the top of the jar, but this isn’t necessary. It’s a matter of taste.

Sun-ripened tomato pesto.

Sun-ripened tomato pesto.

Mix together well, add a half glass of water and a stick of cinnamon (yes, really) and season to taste. (Leave out the water if slow cooking.)

Stick of cinnamon.

Stick of cinnamon.

Bring the mixture to the boil and place a piece of greaseproof paper between the pot and the lid. Turn the heat down to simmer on the stove for 1-1½ hours. Alternatively, transfer to the oven for the same amount of time.

Add the tinned kidneys beans about 30 minutes before serving to allow them to warm through.

I forgot to strain the oil off the pesto - can you tell?

I forgot to strain the oil off the pesto – can you tell?

Serve with crusty bread, on plain steamed rice, on boiled pasta as a meat sauce, on mashed potatoes, over corn chips, topped with a cornbread cobbler (recipe coming soon) or in tacos or burritos. Have your way with it.  Goodness, you could even top it with mashed spud and call it Shepherd’s Pie if you want.

It’s a really versatile dish.  Enjoy.

Chilli con Carne (stove and oven)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


2 medium onions, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

olive oil

2 level tsps chilli powder

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

500 g minced beef (err toward the leaner cuts)

I x 190 g jar sundried tomato pesto, excess oil drained from top and discarded.

2 x 400 g tins diced tomatoes

2 x 400 g tins kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 stick cinnamon


Preheat oven to 150°C/ 300° F, if using.

In a metal pan or casserole with a tight-fitting lid, heat olive oil gently.

Add diced vegetables and garlic until onions are softened and translucent.

Add the minced beef and sauté gently until browned through. Add the spices or substitute any low-salt tex-mex style blend you prefer.

Add the contents of the jar of pesto and the two tins of diced tomatoes with a small glass of water. Stir well and add cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and the lid and reduce heat to a simmer.

Cook for 1½ hours on the stove top or transfer to the oven for 1½ hours.

At the 1 hour point, add the kidneys beans and stir thoroughly to warm through.


Slow cooker:

Prepare a 3 – 4 litre (quart) slow cooker.

Follow directions as above to the using a medium sized frying pan.

Transfer contents of pan to slow-cooker and add the contents of the jar of pesto and the two tins of diced tomatoes.

Stir well and add cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil on High, then reduce heat to LOW.

Cook for 3-6 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

30 minutes before serving, add the kidney beans to heat through.

If the mixture is too wet, sauce may be thickened using cornflour, or soaked up using a cobbler topping.

Hungry yet?

Hungry yet?

Chocolate Fudge Pudding

Hot fudge pudding and ice cream.

I have two self-saucing chocolate pudding recipes in my collection. One is my Mother’s and one is my Grandmother’s. The thing I find fascinating about them is the difference in the flavour profile that a mere few decades can make.

My Grandmother’s recipe is rich – very rich. It is made with butter and cocoa and really does meet the label of fudge. My Mother’s recipe is sweet. Tooth-achingly sweet. But still good. I’ll feature both recipes on this site, but my Grandmother’s recipe is my favourite.

The first time I made this, the richness overwhelmed me. I use Dutch process cocoa in my cooking and the chocolate flavour was almost too much. The Dutch process removes the acidity that may lurk in cocoa powder and gives the cocoa a rich dark colour as well, however it is not necessary to make this recipe work.

Also, the original recipe calls for shortening as one of the ingredients. My American readers will be surprised to learn that this is not something widely available on Australian supermarket shelves. I used butter.

I had decided that, the next time I made it, I wanted to add something to cut the richness. It occurred to me that adding some orange zest might just do the trick – I was right. If you are inclined toward the alcoholic, try adding a spoonful of orange liqueur to the batter as well/instead – something like Grand Marnier or Cointreau would work well.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Start with the pudding ingredients and sift together the flour, sugar and cocoa into a basin.

Sift the dry pudding ingredients.

Sift the dry pudding ingredients.

At this point, zest a largish orange and add to the dry ingredients.

Add orange zest.

Add orange zest.

Add the sultanas at this point too.

Melt the shortening (or butter, if you wish) and mix together with the milk. Add the egg to this liquid and mix lightly.  Pour this mixture over the sifted ingredients. This is when you would add liqueur if you wished. Beat until well combined.

Yes, it's blurry. We can blame the liqueurs if you like...

Yes, it’s blurry. We can blame the liqueurs if you like…

Dig out a nice deep ovenware dish and place your batter in the middle of it. The dish doesn’t need to be greased or prepared in any way. Don’t panic.

Also, save yourself some trouble and place the baking dish on a metal tray. This will make putting the pudding into, and then taking it out of, the oven infinitely easier. Really.

Put the batter in an ovenproof dish.

Put the batter in an oven-proof dish.

Moving to the sauce ingredients now: melt the butter. I use a glass jug in the microwave.

Mix the butter, the cocoa and hot water all together until smooth.

It will look kind of mesmerizingly amazing...

It will look kind of mesmerizingly amazing…

Pour this liquid over the batter in the baking dish. If it looks awful, it’s okay. Really. You haven’t ruined it, I promise.

It will look appalling. You're doing it right.

It will look appalling. Don’t worry, you’re doing it right.

Now bake it for 30-35 mins. Remember to use the metal baking tray as well.

I like to serve this after a slap up roast dinner. I get the washing up for the pudding out of the way while the roast is still cooking, and then put the pudding in to bake when I serve the meal. That way it cooks while we are eating and is ready when we have finished our mains.

Welcome to decadence. (Note the oven tray.)

Welcome to decadence. (Note the oven tray.)

Cut into small pieces and serve, spooning the sauce below the solid pudding into the bowls as well.

Grandmother Sayers's Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Grandmother Sayers’s Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

A reminder that this is VERY RICH. You only want small servings. Garnish with a small scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of dolloping cream.

You’re welcome.

You've gotta try this. Now.

You’ve gotta try this. Now.

Chocolate Fudge Pudding

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



125 g sugar

1 egg

1 cup self-raising flour

2 tbsps cocoa powder

zest of 1 orange

60 g shortening (or unsalted butter)

¼ cup milk

¼ cup sultanas


90 g unsalted butter

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1 cup hot water


Heat oven to 180°C/350°F.

Starting with the pudding ingredients, sift together flour, sugar and cocoa and place in a mixing basin.

Add the orange zest and sultanas.

Melt the shortening/butter and add milk. Mix in the egg.

Pour onto the dry ingredients in the basin and mix well. (My Grandmother’s recipe says to beat by hand for 2 minutes, if that helps!)

Place in a clean, deep oven-ware dish that you have placed on a larger metal tray for ease of handling.

Using the sauce ingredients, melt the butter and then mix with the water and cocoa.

Pour over the pudding batter in the oven ware dish.

Bake for 30-35 mins.

Serve with plain vanilla ice cream.


Soak the sultanas in 1 or 2 tablespoons of orange flavoured liqueur before adding to the pudding mixture.





Store cupboard curry


I spent most of the day elsewhere. First I made a couple of pizzas with this guy.

Masterchef Kai

Masterchef Kai.

We were at my weekly lunch with the Intercultural Womens Network of Ballarat (free plug!) and they were my contribution. He was the only three-year old there and scatters toppings really well. 😉

Then it was off to replace my blood glucose monitor – which I appear to have left in the car from the driving assessment yesterday.

Dinner was never going to be complicated. Ever.

I hadn’t got anything out of the freezer and I couldn’t be bothered doing so when I got home. I just opened the pantry and pretended I was a teenager doing a survey of the refrigerator – you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

I spotted a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce and thought, “Well, that’s a start.” That was emptied it into the baby slow cooker and followed with a tin of lite coconut cream.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

I chopped up half a red capsicum, then peeled and chopped up the seed end of half a butternut pumpkin and stirred that through. The crock was getting a little full, and I’d realised that I’d left my run a little late for using the slow cooker, so I transferred it to a Dutch oven on the stove top, where I added a tin of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

I realised I'd made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

I realised I’d made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

It really only needed to simmer long enough to cook the pumpkin through so, while it did that, I put some rice on to steam and added some millet to the pot for something different. That came out looking like this.

Jasmine rice and millet.

Jasmine rice and millet.

The curry was looking a little ‘samey’ so the freezer was raided and a bag of mixed frozen vegies was used to add some more texture and colour to the curry.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

When they were heated through, the curry was spooned over the rice and served.

Store cupboard curry

Store cupboard curry.

A meatless dinner with minimal effort and plenty of leftovers. That last point is important because we’ve got a long day in Geelong tomorrow, starting at stupid o’clock, and it was likely to end with takeaway if we weren’t careful.  Now that’s not so likely.

Our refilled biscuit barrel.

Okay, so my driving assessment didn’t happen today, because reasons. I have to go back tomorrow.

I came home and worked off the cumulative fury in my front garden, pruning pretty much 7/8 of the rose bushes off. It worked.

The bushes look like they’ll face the next growing season much better too!

Anyway, when I came in I remembered that a request had been made for some more cookies, preferably ones with chunks of chocolate and a touch of salt. So I thought I’d try a new recipe and made this one here. Coconut chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt.

Coconut chocolate chink biscuits

Coconut chocolate chunk biscuits.

The Boy says they are good. I haven’t tasted them yet. If I agree with him, then they may end up on a post sometime.

Pasta and other things mixed in a baking dish.

Pasta and other things mixed in a baking dish.

I decided to do a pasta bake for dinner. So I threw a few handfuls of pasta on to cook, diced up a zucchini and a capsicum, drained a can of chickpeas and cut up some of that BBQ chook we’ve got in the fridge. When the pasta was cooked, I mixed them all together in a pyrex baking dish with what was left in the jar of pesto we had. (Another thing for the list.)

Make a quick cheese sauce to bind.

Make a quick cheese sauce to bind.

Then I made a white sauce and mixed through a few handfuls of grated tasty cheese and some mixed Italian herbs, salt and pepper. The whole lot was placed into the oven (which had been on for the cookies) and baked at 180°C for about 40 mins.

The end result.

The end result.

At that stage, I took it out and sprinkled the top with some home-made wholegrain breadcrumbs that I keep in the fridge – for added texture. It was baked a further 10 minutes after that.

Then we tucked in. I had a small serving so I could follow it up with a bit of the leftover chocolate fudge pudding. The orange flavour from the zest was even more pronounced and it was amazing!

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

There was enough pasta left for two or three servings. I love cooking things in that glass dish. It is one of a set of three that I bought from Kmart some time ago and which came with clip lock lids. They don’t seem to have the sets any more, but you can buy singles like this one.

Hot fudge pudding and ice cream. I'd earned it.

Hot fudge pudding and ice cream. I’d earned it.

They’re very affordable and it means that, when the dish is cool, you can pop the lid on and put it in the fridge. No fiddling with cling wrap, no transferring to a different dish, easy to reheat in – gotta be happy with that. 🙂  They are available in square and rectangle and several different sizes and I’d recommend them, especially to those just starting out. You want stuff that is versatile and that you love using. I think perhaps I should do a post on this…

Anyway, I am now very tired from my gardening exertions and ready to crash.




(The Boy’s) Bean Burritos

Bean Burrito mix

This is one of those dishes that takes more time to describe than to make.

It started out as a series of desperate texts to The Boy a few years ago. He was studying in another city and it sounded as though his diet and his health were in a truly parlous state – largely because food costs a lot and cooking is hard when you don’t know how to work things.

Which is why I started this blog.

I needed to get him eating at least one meal a week – preferably one with decent nutrition. So I fiddled a bit at my place using some tinned goods, came up with this and sent it to him in about 4 text messages.

Don't be afraid of canned food.

Don’t be afraid of tinned food.

I’ll explain in slightly greater depth here. Please note, this dish costs about $4. Tacos and other flatbreads are extra.

As an aside, this is an excellent dish to teach to hungry teenagers who demand feeding every 15 minutes. It’s healthy and it will fill up those hollow legs quite well.

For two people, you’ll need an onion, a medium-sized red capsicum (or green if you prefer), a tin of kidney beans and a tin of diced tomatoes. If the idea of eating a vegetarian dish induces a cold sweat, then try adding a diced rasher of bacon into the pan with the onion.

You’ll also need whatever spices you want to add. The Boy uses a Taco Mix I bought him at a friend’s YIAH party.

We serve this with tortillas, tacos or wraps warmed in the oven while the beans are cooked. It’s also appeared on the table accompanied by corn chips for dipping.

Dice your onion and capsicum and then sauté them over a gentle heat until the onion is translucent. If I’m the one cooking, I’ll add a finely chopped stick of celery just to add some colour and crunch.

Start with your fresh vegies

Start with your fresh vegies.

Now drain your kidney beans and rinse. Add the beans and the tin of tomatoes to the pan. Again, if I’m cooking, I’ll also throw in a small tin of corn kernels. This adds even more colour, a slightly different texture, and a touch of sweetness. If you are doubling the recipe, then try using a tin of kidney beans and a tin of black beans for even more colour and variety.

Add your canned goods to the pan.

Add your canned goods to the pan.

Keep stirring it over a low heat and mix in as much of your spices as you wish. You want the dish to blend well together and thicken a little.

A few minutes later.

A few minutes later.

You can use a taco seasoning mix if you have one. If you don’t, then try a sprinkling each of ground cumin, ground coriander and sweet smoked paprika. Add chilli powder instead of the paprika – if that’s what you have – and try doing it with a dash of ground cinnamon for a sweet surprise. Add salt if you must.

When it gets to a texture that you think will work well as a burrito filling, take it off the heat and serve.

Serve 'em up!

Serve ’em up!

Just to clarify that last bit. You don’t want this to be too ‘wet’ or your burrito, taco or tortilla will turn into a soggy mess.

Now you can place this into a wrap with lettuce and other salad items if you want to. I tend to just sprinkle it with tasty cheese and sometimes add a dollop of natural yoghurt (you could use sour cream), then tear bits off the tortilla and wrap those around spoonfuls of beans  – a kind of mini-burrito for the hand-eye-co-ordination-challenged.

Eat it anyway you please really. This keeps well in the refrigerator and can easily be doubled or tripled. I wouldn’t recommend freezing it simply because it is so quick to make up! Save your freezer space for something that takes hours, not minutes.

Bean Burritos

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1 x medium onion, diced

1 x medium red or green capsicum, diced

1 x stick celery, finely chopped (optional)

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes (may have other flavours added if you wish)

1 x 200g tin sweet corn kernels, drained and rinsed (optional)

taco spice mix (or any combination of spices you would like to try)


Heat a frying pan over gentle heat and add a tablespoon of oil.

Add your diced onion and capsicum and fry gently until onion is translucent. Add celery if using.

Stir in your spice mix, heating gently until you can just smell their aroma.

Add your beans and canned tomatoes and stir over low heat until liquid thickens.

Serve garnished with grated cheese and/or sour cream.

May be used rolled up in a tortilla with salad as a burrito, or in a bowl accompanied by plain rice or corn chips (or both).

$4 people.

Cheat’s Risotto – Basics

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

Risotto is a word that can send chills cascading down a beginner cook’s spine. The sheer expectation that their rice is to be done to perfection may dissuade them from even trying this dish.

Add to that the clear and certain knowledge that it requires boiling hot stock, added ladle by ladle, all while stirred ad infinitum and who’d actually bother?

I don’t. In fact I find it hard to believe that any self-respecting Italian peasant mother with many small children underfoot would be able to pull that particular feat off satisfactorily. Don’t be confused here – risotto was a peasant, or farmhouse dish, long before it was ever gourmet.

In my kitchen, risotto is a way to mix quite a few different vegetables (or bits of vegetables) and a little meat into a warm, creamy, comforting bowl of hot, moist rice.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

I’m calling this cheat’s risotto, because it’s how I make a risotto-like dish. It works for me and I hope it works for you.

To make a risotto you need a short grain rice. The most common one available to shoppers in my neck of the world is Arborio rice. You can find it in most supermarkets.

You can do this with Pearled Barley too, but it will take about 45 minutes to cook.

You also need a largish saucepan and a good quality stock. In the picture above, you’ll see a mason jar in the centre. That there is my home-made chicken stock.

You don’t have to make your own. Use a stock cube if you wish, or bouillon, or a tetra pack – whatever works for you. Just make sure that whatever you use has a good flavour, because this is what your entire dish will taste of!

Bear in mind that, if you do make your own, it will contain far less salt than the processed alternatives.

You’ll need a good quality stirring implement – spatula, spurtle, wooden spoon, whatever – and, if you are anything like me, long sleeves to protect from any hot liquid stirred out of the pot…

I had a few bits and pieces I wanted to use up, so that’s what’s gone into this meal. An onion, a stick of celery, half a large red pepper and a chorizo were all pressed into service. I started by chopping them up as finely as my motor skills would allow – which wasn’t very.

Prep your vegies.

Prep your vegies.

While I was doing this, I poured the chicken stock into a microwaveable jug and heated it to boiling point.

Then I put my saucepan on the hob on lowish heat and prepared for action.

A splash of olive oil went into the pot and the onion was added and cooked until translucent, accompanied by a spoonful of garlic from a jar. Then I added the celery and, when that was soft, I added the diced sausage.

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

I’ve yet to figure out how to photograph actual cooking without getting a steam filter happening…

I decided to add the capsicum later for a bit of a texture contrast. The stock is brought to the cooking area now and the kettle is boiled just in case I want more liquid later.

Now is the time to add the rice. I very rarely measure it, but I guess I use about 1 cup for the two of us.

Add the rice all at once.

Add the rice all at once.

When the rice is added, it is very important to stir it vigorously. You are aiming to coat the rice with whatever oil and juices are already in the pan while also toasting the grains.

Stir for your life.

Stir for your life.

I added the capsicum here. I also set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. Then I added a good amount of stock – probably about 3/4 of a cup. Basically you want enough to cover the base of the pan and to come at least half way up your ingredients. Stir as thoroughly as you can until the stock is almost completely absorbed.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

The more you stir at this point the more the starches in your rice will be released, and the smoother and creamier your final result will be. Keep adding stock a little at a time until you’ve used about half of it.

Then you can safely just add the rest. Did you hear the sound of millions of chefs fainting just then? Seriously, just add the rest of the stock. It will look like you’ve drowned it. It’s okay. Really.

Don't panic.

Don’t panic.

Keep it simmering gently and stirring it to prevent sticking. If the rice emerges from the liquid before your kitchen timer goes off, then add some water from your previously boiled kettle. You need your rice to be cooked!

You *will* see your rice again.

You *will* see your rice again.

You want your rice to be al dente. Remember that it will continue to absorb water after you have taken it off the heat. So, while it is still on the hob, run your spatula along the middle of the bottom of the pot. You should see clear saucepan and then a sheen of liquid will appear. That is what you are after.

Serve your risotto.

Okay, rewind.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Traditionally, the dish is ‘velveted’ by adding cream at this point. I fear my hips would enjoy that too much, so I don’t do it. I sometimes add a tablespoon of basil pesto to change things up a little, but it isn’t necessary. You can also stir cheese through at this point, but this adds a degree of difficulty to the clean up of the saucepan.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

I serve the rice, then add a sprinkling of shaved parmesan cheese and a grinding of black pepper and it is perfetto!



At some point in the future I’ll redo this post with pics of the food in white bowls and under better lighting, but until then you’ll have to trust that this is delicious.


Pizza Pull Apart (Scrolls)

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Okay. This is one of those recipes that builds on one you’ve seen here previously.

It’s not difficult, but can be fiddly. It’s certainly tasty and it can be as inexpensive as you want it to be.

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

It starts with a basic scone dough (biscuits for Americans) and gets creative soon after. It’s perfect for those days when you want something more substantial for lunch. It’s great for getting the kids involved if they’re underfoot too.

Also, if you have bits and bobs in the refrigerator that you want to use up, but which don’t really add up to a meal on their own…you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t you?

Moving on…

In other words this is more of a process than a recipe.

Start out by lining a cake tin with baking paper. It can be a square or round tin – it really doesn’t matter. If you find paper lining difficult, then grease it well instead. I find that paper makes it easier to remove the finished product when baked. 😉

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Make yourself some scone dough but, instead of making it into scones, simply flatten it out into a vague rectangle shape. Use your hands and fingertips for this, there’s no need for a rolling pin. Try doing this on a little more silicon/baking/parchment paper sprinkled with flour. It will make rolling it up a little easier.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

The size of your rectangle will be determined by the thickness of your dough. Try to make it an even thickness all over – about 1 cm or ¼ inch. Try also not to make it too narrow a rectangle. You will be rolling it up and you want to fit a few turns into it!

Turn your oven on and set it to 220°C/450°F.

Spread your dough with a base flavouring. Tomato paste will work, as will pizza sauce. I find tomato-based spreads far too sweet for me and instead use a roasted capsicum spread called Ajvar that I was introduced to by some Macedonian friends (and now I’m hooked!) It’s something that is big among the former Yugoslavian nations, although I understand the Italians produce something similar – although I don’t know what it’s called.

Spread your base with something tasty.

Spread your base with something tasty.

You may use whatever you like.

Basically you are simply adding a moist base for the rest of your fillings and ensuring that there will be no dry stretches of dough in the finished product. Try using barbecue sauce, basil pesto, olive tapenade or a chutney instead.

You’ll find it much easier to spread if you use a spoon rather than a knife to spread it. Scoop it out onto the dough and then use the back of the spoon’s bowl to spread it.

Now scatter with some grated/shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Then get creative. This is where you can use the waifs and strays in your refrigerator. You won’t want to put too much on, or it will make the rolling process more difficult.

Add whatever you might add to a pizza: deli meats like salami or shredded ham, chop up a bacon rasher or two and scatter over, if you have some BBQ/rotisserie chicken in the fridge, dice it up and scatter it over. If you are vegetarian, try adding some chick peas/garbanzos or even some kidney beans.  You won’t need much.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Then add some diced vegetables, I’ve added capsicum/bell pepper in the photo above. Slice a mushroom or two, confetti it with sliced black olives or – and this is yummy – slowly fry some sliced onions or leeks in butter until soft and starting to caramelise, drain on paper towel and add generously.

It’s completely up to you.

If you want to, at this stage you could just place it on a tray and bake it like a standard pizza. It will take 20 minutes at least.

Or you can go on to roll it up like a Swiss Roll, lifting the long edge nearest to you and rolling away. Make it as tight as you can, but try not to put holes in the dough. If you have used a piece of paper beneath it, then use that to help you with the rolling. Some of your filling will inevitably escape from the long end or pop out the short ends. Don’t panic. Push them back in if you can, or consider them a Cook’s treat for while it all bakes.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Then slice into even pieces. I cut it in the middle, then divide each half in half, and so on. Aim for 8 to 9 pieces. Be careful to slice and not chop your roll, you don’t want to squash it beyond recognition. (If you do squash it, don’t worry too much. The taste won’t be affected.)

Divide into even-ish slices.

Divide into even-ish slices.

Now transfer the pieces into your cake tin. Start in the middle and work your way outward in a daisy formation. Be sure to grip the open edge closed as you lift it. It will end up looking a bit like this.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Place it in the top third of the oven and bake for 20 mins before rotating the tin and baking for another 20 mins. It will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in a doughy part in the centre comes out clean.

You could sprinkle more cheese over the top at the half way mark if you wish.

The finished result.

The finished result.

Lift it out and serve immediately for best results. Alternatively, wrap in a clean tea towel to cool, and it will be excellent cold for school lunches or a picnic. The cloth covering keeps the steam in and the quickbread soft.

For a slightly crunchy variation, sprinkle some polenta or cornmeal on your surface before you start to press out your scone dough.

Experiment and enjoy!