Wednesday, 10 December 2014

violet leaf cold processed soap

making this soap was a test of patience that i ultimately failed..i waited about 10 days for the violet leaves to dry enough to be processed into a powder..i waited a month for the violet leaf powder to infuse with the olive oil..i decided to buy some extra emollient ingredients so i looked up the shop's address, wrote it down and poodled off to get them but i couldn't find the shop..came home..checked the address..i had the right numbers but in the wrong order..i waited 'til i had time to go back to the shop..i waited until i had several hours free to make the soap..i made it without any mishaps but i didn't wait long enough for it to firm up properly and so it crumbled a bit when i cut it into usable pieces..but it's still a lovely soap.. 

violet leaf cold processed soap
tea with hazel


750 gms olive oil
500 gms copha
150 gms shea butter
100 gms almond oil
20 gms beeswax
12-14 cups violet leaves
400 mls filtered water
210 gms sodium hydroxide


~ dry half of the leaves, crush to a fine powder, place in ceramic bowl and add 250 gms olive oil, leave for a month (or more) to infuse, then strain through several layers of muslin and then add the violet leaf oil to the remaining 500 gms of olive oil to make up the 750 gms of olive oil required
~ place the remaining violet leaves in a large bowl, add enough filtered boiling water to cover the leaves, leave to infuse until cold and then strain
~ measure the tea and add extra filtered water to make 400 mls or discard any excess (i drank the excess violet tea i had and it tasted lovely) and set the violet leaf tea aside
~ follow the instructions here for making the soap but use violet leaf tea instead of water


~ when i added the sodium hydroxide to the violet tea it turned orange but when i added the orange lye to the oils/butter/beeswax the combined mixture turned a lovely pale green that was retained through the saponification process and insulation phase
~ according to culpepper violet leaf infused oil is antiseptic and helps to soothe dry and itchy skin

next i want to make blue cornflower (they come in pink, purple and white too) soap..that's another test of far i've grown the cornflowers, collected the flowers, dried them and removed the petals..the blue of dried cornflowers doesn't fade so it should look really pretty in soap

Sunday, 7 December 2014

making do

i love the alchemic way in which a few random ingredients can be made into something nutritious and delicious..for instance i don't have a plethora of spinach for making spanakopita at the moment but after a little bit of foraging on the home front yesterday i found enough greens to make a hortopita or wild greens pie..i gathered rocket (i have a lot of the smaller leaved variety that self seeds everywhere), dandelion leaves, violet leaves..yes they are edible, purslane, spinach, watercress, mint and wild fennel (i collected the seeds last year from the dandenongs, where it grows wild, while on a blackberrying expedition)..and i did a bit of tweaking with my phyllo recipe..

strifti hortopita (spiral wild greens pie)
tea with hazel

ingredients pie filling (these ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual taste and the ingredients to hand)

about 5-6 cups of mixed greens (i used rocket, purslane, violet leaves, watercress, spinach and dandelion)
1/4 cup of mint cut medium
1/2 cup of fennel fronds
1 egg beaten (1 tablespoon (tbs) reserved)
150 gms feta crumbled
150 gms ricotta
1 teaspoon (tsp) salt (murray river salt)
1 teaspoon pepper

method pie filling

~ cook the dandelion leaves first in a centimetre of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the violet and rocket leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes..lastly add the purslane and spinach and cook until all of the leaves are well wilted
~ drain the leaves in a colander, cut up with scissors while still in the colander, and then press the leaves to extract excess water (the water is like a health tonic so i drink it)
~ mix the greens with the herbs, cheeses, salt, pepper and egg and set aside

extra ingredients

sesame seeds
melted butter

ingredients pastry

200 gms typo 00 flour
50 gms rimacinato flour
35 mls olive oil
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp salt (murray river)
warm water

method pastry

~ place flours, salt, vinegar and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the motor running add enough water to make a soft dough
~ knead for 5 minutes 
~ remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel, and rest for 1 hour
~ divide the dough equally into 5 balls, roll each one into saucer shaped discs, and rest covered for 30 minutes
~ roll each disc to a rectangle about the size of a large dinner plate size and until it's semi transparent

method assembly

~ butter each sheet of phyllo, place a fifth of the mixture along the long bottom end of the pastry, and then roll up into a sausage
~ coil the sausage in the middle of a lined circular tin
~ continue in the same manner buttering the ends so they adhere to the last piece
~ brush the top with reserved egg and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds
~ bake at 220 deg c for 10-15 minutes and then at 180 deg c for a further 40 minutes or until well browned

~ i think the pastry made with the typo 00 and rimacinata flours was better than my former phyllo for a savoury was certainly harder to roll out but its more robust and coarse crunch suited the savoury filling
~ i thought the flavours of the leaves and herbs worked well and none overpowered the others..i hadn't eaten violet leaves before (apart from chewing on a raw one recently when i discovered they were edible) so i wasn't sure how they would go but there was no stringy chewiness or weird flavour and if i hadn't put them in myself i wouldn't have known they were there..

i'm grateful
that i'm eating weeds because i want to
not because i have to..

Sunday, 2 November 2014

rhubarb, strawberry and rose water crumble with rich egg custard

there's so much to pick from my garden at the moment
broad beans
rainbow chard
lots of herbs and edible flowers
red red last..

rhubarb, strawberry and rose water crumble with rich egg custard
tea with hazel

ingredients crumble

250 gms strawberries hulled
6-8 rhubarb stalks cut into 3 cm batons
1 tablespoon (tbs) sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (tsp) rose water concentrate
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1/2 tbs corn flour
70 gms butter cut into dice
70 gms castor sugar
70 gms light moscovado sugar
70 gms plain flour 
2 tbs oats

method crumble

~ place rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, vanilla seeds, rose water and corn flour in a baking dish and mix gently
~ mix castor sugar, moscovado sugar, flour and oats and rub in butter
~ strew fruit with the crumble
~ bake at 180 deg for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is browned and crisp

ingredients custard

3/4 cup of full cream milk (i use organic unhomogenised)
1/4 cup pure cream
2-3 tbs extra milk
1 egg yolk
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla (i used home made)

method custard

~ put milk, cream and sugar onto heat
~ mix corn flour, egg yolk and extra milk to form a thin paste
~ add a few tablespoons of hot milk to the egg mix (to prevent curdling) and stir well
~ take the saucepan off the heat and add the strained egg mix
~ put the saucepan back on the heat and cook stirring until the custard just comes to the boil
~ take off the heat and add vanilla

tastes even better eaten while sitting outside in the sunshine

Friday, 17 October 2014

very grateful

minestrone was a favourite when i was doing my nursing training at the royal melbourne hospital in the late 60's and early 70's...exhausted and hungry after gruelling shift work my friends and i'd often walk to carlton for a bowl of minestrone (or bolognaise) was always served with plenty of crusty bread and butter..i started making it myself when i was living in the north of was a wonderful all in one nutritious, cheap, warming and hearty meal for me and my soldier husband..the recipe i used then was from elizabeth david's italian was one of four books i had at the time..the others were elizabeth david's french country cooking, the green and gold and a book on greek cooking

i'd forgotten about minestrone soup until this morning when i was thinking about how i'd use some stock i'd made earlier in the week..lots of options whirled through my head but when i thought about some of the other ingredients i had minestrone suddenly just popped into my head..

versatile minestrone
tea with hazel
serves about 6 people


2 litres stock (i used homemade)*
100 mls red wine
3 medium onions cut into medium dice
2 fresh garlic heads cut into quarters*
1/4 cabbage cut into large chunks
6 celery stalks cut medium (i used homegrown which have smaller stalks than most commercial celery)*
1 large carrot cut into medium dice
2 medium potatoes cut into medium dice
1/2 cup arborio rice
3-4 thin slices of double smoked bacon cut large (i used skara)
1 teaspoon (tsp) chilli*
2-3 tablespoons (tbs) organic tomato paste
8-10 dried tomatoes cut into medium pieces
parmesan rind cut into chunks
6 ruby chard leaves and stalks with stalks cut into medium pieces and leaves cut large*
large handful of rocket leaves*
1 cup fresh broad beans*
1-2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

to serve

chopped parsley (i add it as a garnish because i find parsley goes an unpleasant dull colour when cooked) *
freshly grated parmesan
extra olive oil


~ saute bacon, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, cabbage, potato, chilli and bay leaves in olive oil until the onions are translucent
~ increase heat, add wine, and cook for a minute or so to burn off the alcohol
~ add stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, parmesan rind and rice and simmer for 20-25 minutes
~ just before serving add chard stalks and leaves, rocket and broad beans and cook until just tender
~ adjust seasoning

to serve

~ garnish with plenty of parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil


* home grown or home produced ingredients

suggested alternative ingredients

~ replace the stock with water
~ use other leafy greens such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, nettles and dandelion
~ replace the tomato paste and dried tomatoes with passata or fresh tomatoes
~ replace the fresh broad beans with cooked dried beans such as haricot, lima or kidney beans
~ replace the rice with pasta or use both
~ omit the bacon
~ saute the vegetables in good quality bacon or pork fat

one of life's pleasures for me is turning my home grown produce into a wholesome's not about money per se..sure this soup cost very little..for me it's more about being in touch with the ebb and flow of seasonal produce..and growing my own keeps me firmly in touch with the hard graft of those 'on the land' who provide us with sustenance..i'm grateful..yeah that's it..very grateful.. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

chair love


kitchen stool
retro/vintage shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
small stool
op shop purchase for $2
child's metal + vinyl chair
op shop purchase for $5
found abandoned on a footpath
stained and painted 
child's chair
op shop purchase for $5
op shop purchase for $2
op shop purchase for $2
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
gifted by a neighbour
stripped to reveal previously
hidden embossed australiana
sanded + painted
child's chair
made in melbourne by
 a j parker + co
op shop purchase for $10
metal chair
found in a hard rubbish collection
stripped, rust protection given +
the seat painted
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced 
four more 
new seating needed

happy spring equinox

Thursday, 18 September 2014

the benefit of hindsight

persistence can be a good thing..but it can also be counter productive..sometimes you don't know if you should persist with something or not..if the thing you're persisting with has a positive outcome you think your persistence was a good thing and you might give yourself a little pat on the back for not being one to give up easily..on the other hand you might persist and persist and then realise that you've just wasted a lot of resources (like time, money, emotional energy) on something that didn't work and you then might blame yourself for not realising earlier that it would have been better to ditch the whole thing in the first place..

my thinking here is all about my sourdough starter which developed a case of black mould while i was overseas in may this year for two the time i wondered if i should throw it away but i removed the mould, fed the starter, and it sprang back to moved on..loaves were baked and i forgot about the mould..but one day i made my usual baguettes and they were dense..tried again a few days later..same thing..and once more..same..i thought i'd lost my mojo..a while later i thought my starter might be the problem so razzed up the feeding and gave it some intensive care..

i tried every regime possible..all rye..some white and some rye..filtered water..boiled, cooled filtered water..tepid filtered water..warmer environment..cooler environment..but all rye flour is all it likes..even introducing tiny increments of white flour sends it into a funk..i can't tell you how much discarded starter i've had to deal with in the process..couldn't waste it..some of you know what i'm like about waste..i've chucked it in yeasted bread..made too many pancakes for one person..but after all the persistence it's time to take it off life support and arrange the funeral..i now realise that it was on its way out all those months ago..hindsight's funny like that!

although i've started another starter it will be a while before i can bake
sourdough it's yeasted bread in the meantime 

see's time for me to desist..x

Thursday, 4 September 2014

spelt and oat digestives

i haven't bought a dried biscuit in years..they're so many reasons miles, excess packaging, trans fats, high salt content, unsustainable oil (palm oil) and ingredients that require mata hari code breaking skills for recognition purposes..and they're relatively expensive..see i've been known to gobble up a packet of vita wheats generously adorned with butter and vegemite in no time..when i'm peckish one or two little crackers just don't cut the's a slice of home made and whole meal bread that does the trick for me..but..there are the occasional moments when a savoury biscuit is just the thing..for instance before a meal with some really good cheese and a little glass of red wine..nothing finer in my mind..

i came across this recipe yesterday and i made it came well recommended so i had great faith in it..i think it's just about perfect for what i want and i can't tell you how pleased i am to now have a go to recipe for life's biscuits and cheese moments..

spelt and oat digestives
recipe from here
makes 7 dozen thin digestives


1 3/4 cup oats
1 3/4 cups whole meal spelt flour
1/3 cup muscovardo sugar well pressed down
155 gms butter cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) baking soda 
2 tsp salt (i used murray river salt)


~ place the oats and flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until the oats are fine
~ add sugar, soda and salt and process until the sugar is well distributed
~ add butter and process until the mixture looks like bread crumbs
~ add a few tablespoons of milk at a time while pulsing the mixture and until it forms a ball
~ remove from the bowl and knead briefly to form a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for an hour or so
~ lightly dust the work surface with spelt flour, roll the dough thinly, and cut into desired shape
~ cook for 12-14 minutes at 180 deg c

notes: i've included the recipe because the original butter measurement was given in cups and spoons..what's with that? imagine trying to cram butter into a cup especially when it's cold..which it needs to be for also needed more milk..and i've changed the method too to represent my experience of the's a great dough to work with because it re rolls doesn't suffer from lots of handling..and it doesn't spread at all when cooked so lots can be baked at once which was good for me because i rolled mine quite thin

Sunday, 24 August 2014

rosemary and lavender cold processed soap

i had to climb over a car to make this soap..and i'm not speaking figuratively..i literally had to scale a's a mixed blessing letting my son store his vintage car in my garage while he's away for six months..for one thing i had to do a bit of long overdue clearing and cleaning was a case of three days work, nature strip donations and some excited of whom brought a trailer..and i loved being able to help my boy out..the downside is that it's now a mission to get to stuff like my soap making paraphernalia..i did get my boy nick to check that i could access the narrow passage between the car and the stuff stored along the sides of the garage..he did a quick shimmy..i was satisfied it was possible..but later when i tried myself it was a different story..i hadn't accounted for our differences in agility and circumference!

rosemary and lavender cold processed soap recipe
tea with hazel


1000 gms olive oil 
500 gms copha
25 gms beeswax
215 gms sodium hydroxide
400 mls filtered water
a cup or so of rosemary leaves*


~ process 200 gms of the olive oil and the rosemary and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks
~ strain through muslin
~ follow the instructions here for making the soap except after pouring the soap into the container sprinkle with lavender before covering and insulating the container


* i picked the herbs from my garden..i used the rosemary fresh but the lavender i picked and dried last's a french lavender that doesn't look anything much in the garden and it doesn't smell particularly lavendery when fresh but once it's dried it has the nicest lavender scent of any i've grown..
~ each bar cost approximately $0.65..the beeswax i found at an op shop for $0.50!

 it doesn't show up but the soap is a lovely soft green colour with some pretty shading on top caused
 (i'm guessing) by the lavender

i'm looking forward to using it in a few weeks time

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake

do you remember in the seventies when carrot cakes were all the rage? no..weren't even born then! well..believe me when i say they were de rigueur and cutting edge gastronomy back then..what? a vegetable in a cake? oil instead of butter? wow!

i got on the carrot cake bandwagon with great enthusiasm..come on..i'd just returned to australia after having lived in a small town in the mountains of northern greece for a few years..i was easily excited.. 

one day i thought i was being clever when, instead of using a flavourless oil, i used extra virgin olive oil to make my usual carrot surprise then that it tasted strongly of olive oil but my taste buds just weren't up to the flavour in a cake even though they were olive oil inured so i reverted to the flavourless fast forward to yesterday when i put all of my decades old extra virgin olive oil in cake prejudices aside to make this recipe..the cake has herbs de provence in it too..what? herb de provence in a cake? wow!

i found the recipe for this herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake here when i was looking for ways to use all the grapefruit my girl kat gave me..the flavours in this cake intrigued me but i wasn't sure how i would like them but i think they're wonderful..i thought the rose water* would dominate but it's quite subtle and goes really well with the grapefruit..and the herbs de provence* add intriguing and delightful notes that complement the delicious fruity flavours of the olive oil..not being one to waste much i made candied peel from the juiced grapefruit skins..that was the only thing i did differently..oh..hang on..i did cut down on the sugar a bit..

note: * i used a french rose water concentrate imported by the essential ingredient purchased from here and herbs de provence, brought back from france by my dear friend robyn, that included rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram and summer savoury..

have you come across any flavours that have intrigued and surprised you lately?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

broccoli and stilton soup

broccoli is a vegetable that grows easily in melbourne's winter
 just net the seedlings in autumn when the cabbage moth larvae are still active
or maintain a constant vigil
and two months later you'll be picking 
green bouquets

broccoli and stilton soup
tea with hazel


vegetable stock

2 onions cut medium
2 large carrots cut into medium rounds
2-3 celery stalks cut medium and celery leaves
3-4 parsley stalks including leaves
4 garlic cloves
1 tbs pepper corns
olive oil
filtered water


1 medium onion cut into large dice
6-8 spring onions, including green, sliced
2 medium potatoes cut medium
1 celery stalk sliced
1 green chilli, seeds removed, sliced
2 litres vegetable stock
1/2 medium cauliflower, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
1 large broccoli head, leaves retained, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
olive oil
salt and pepper
50 gms stilton

extras per serve

1-2 tablespoons (tbs) lemon juice
2 tbs fresh sourdough breadcrumbs crisped in bacon fat (or olive oil for a vegetarian option)
1-2 tbs crumbled stilton


vegetable stock

~ saute onion, carrot, celery stalks and garlic in olive oil until the vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ cover with water and add parsley and pepper corns
~ bring to the boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, and then strain

broccoli soup  

~ saute onion, spring onions, potato, celery and chilli in olive oil until vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ add cauliflower and broccoli stalks, broccoli leaves and stock and bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer ad cook until the vegetables are soft
~ add cauliflower florets, cook until al dente, and then add broccoli florets and cook until just soft
~ adjust seasoning
~ remove a few of the broccoli florets, roughly break them up and set aside, and puree the soup using a blender or stick blender
~ stir through stilton

to serve

~ divide broccoli florets between soup bowls, add soup, drizzle with lemon juice, and garnish with stilton and bread crumbs

polenta, corn flour, biodynamic wholemeal flour and organic white flour sourdough

soup and bread is one of my favourite meals

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

spiral cheese pie with home made phyllo and ricotta (strifti tyropita)

i don't have a bucket list of places i want to go and things i want to see but there are some food related things i want try making again or make for the first time..phyllo pastry has been on my try again list for a long time..i'd made it in greece a couple times and once more years and years ago when i first came back to australia..i had a sense of trepidation at the thought of tackling it again though..who knows why because it wouldn't have been a big deal had it not turned out ok..bins are good for dealing with cooking disasters..

spiral cheese pie with home made phyllo and ricotta (strifti tyropita)
tea with hazel
2-3 serves



500 gms plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt (i used murray river salt that is less salty than conventional salt)
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons (tbs) fresh lemon juice


1 cup milk
1/2 cup pure cream
large pinch salt 
1 tbs fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar

cheese filling

100 gms feta crumbled
50 gms grated parmesan
50 gms grated kefalotyri
ricotta (from above recipe)
1 egg
1 spring onion cut fine
1-2 tbs mint or dill cut fine
1/2 tsp pepper


olive oil
sesame seeds



day 1

~ place flour, salt and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer and with the motor running add enough water to make a soft dough
~ knead the dough on low speed for about 5 minutes
~ remove the bowl from the stand mixer, cover the dough with a damp cloth, and rest for at least an hour
~ divide the dough into 10 pieces and knead into balls
~ rest covered for 1/2 hour
~ dust the work surface with flour and roll each piece of dough to about the size of a large bread and butter plate
~ stack the disks on top of each other between sheets of baking paper
~ place in a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight

day 2

~ liberally dust the work surface with flour and roll two of the pieces of the dough, using a long rolling pin, to large dinner plate size
~ carefully stretch the dough by hand to create transparent thin sheets being careful not to tear the dough* 


~ place the milk, cream and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil
~ take off the heat and add lemon juice or vinegar and stir once
~ leave to rest for a minute and then strain through muslin (i retain the whey for making bread)

cheese filling

~ mix all ingredients and refrigerate until needed


~ line a 22 cm diameter round tin with baking paper
~ brush each piece of phyllo with oil and divide the filling between the two sheets
~ gently spread the filling evenly over the surface of the phyllo
~ roll each piece into a long sausage
~ coil one sausage in the centre of the tin and, starting at the end of the first piece, place the second sausage in the tin
~ brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds
~ bake at 180 deg for about 45 minutes or until well browned


* the dough may tear a little, particularly on the edges, but that doesn't effect the final outcome of the pie
~ unused phyllo will keep for two to three days
~ to make a larger pie to feed extra people increase the ricotta and cheese filling proportionally 

one off the list..and no bin needed!

post publication note: i've made phyllo a couple of times since posting this recipe and i've found that if the dough is rested for an hour it doesn't necessarily need overnight resting..overnight resting is useful though for getting part of the work done ahead of time..

Sunday, 3 August 2014

ethical dilemma

i've been thinking a lot about my food choices's nothing new though because i've been ruminating for see there's a part of me that would really prefer to be vegetarian or vegan..actually i was vegetarian for about four years but i reverted to limited meat eating when i became increasingly unwell..

one of the issues that concerns me is the way we have commodified animals for human doesn't rest easy with me at hunter gatherer times animals had a bit of a chance but with animal domestication their destiny is now predetermined..treating them well is all fine and good but it does seem a bit weird to go all 'oh i'm so nice to these animals..aren't i such a good person'..and then turn around and kill them, cook them and gobble them's very hansel and gretel..

i've no answer to this dilemma though so i only eat small amounts of meat occasionally that i incorporate and balance with other ingredients..i'm not one to crave a big juicy steak or hop into slabs of meat from spit roasted animals..easter was not a good time for me when i was living in greece..yeah..i loved the ritual of easter sunday's lamb on the spit and all the palaver associated with preparing it and cooking it but i just couldn't eat any of it..

one thing that i've been doing lately is cooking more beans..i used to cook them children grew up on beans and lentils and while i still cook lentils often i've neglected beans in the last few years..i've found that a big batch of home cooked baked beans is a great thing to have in the fridge..for instance, my girl kat came over to do patchwork with me on sunday and instead of me having to make something from scratch and take time away from our precious sewing time together i was able to reheat some beans that i then served on some homemade apple sourdough*** toast and topped with grated cheese and a couple of thin slices of crispy skara bacon..she loved it..i've also been having them for breakfast..and they're great to have on hand for days when i've been too busy to prepare and cook a meal..

versatile baked beans*
tea with hazel


500 gms australian great northern beans**
3-4 medium onions cut fine
2-3 celery stalks cut fine (i used home grown)
2 largish carrots cut fine
1 green or red chilli (i used home grown)
4 or more garlic cloves cut fine
2-3 bay leaves (i used leaves that i stole from a tree in my neighbourhood that's hanging over a fence)
3-4 tablespoons (tbs) organic salt free tomato paste
2 teaspoons (tsp) powdered english mustard
1 tbs treacle
3-4 tbs cider vinegar
1 organic hot chorizo sausage sliced
olive oil
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper


day 1

~ cover beans with water and leave to soak overnight

day 2

~ drain the beans and add fresh water to cover, add bicarbonate of soda, and cook until just softened
~ in another saucepan saute the onion, celery, carrot and garlic until semi translucent
~ add chorizo and cook until the slices are starting to brown on the edges
~ add tomato paste, some of the bean cooking water to loosen the tomato paste, mustard, vinegar  and treacle and mix well
~ add the beans and the bean cooking water and season with salt and pepper
~ tip into a baking dish, drizzle with oil and bake at 180 deg c for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the top is slightly browned


*     yesterday's version
**  they cost me $5.50/kilo..the baking dish of beans makes about 5-6 servings so it's a really cheap but nutritious meal
*** sourdough with grated fresh unpeeled organic apples, organic rye, biodynamic wholemeal and a bit of organic white flour and amaranth seeds

suggested alternative ingredients

~ replace the cooking water with unsalted stock
~ add vegetables and herbs such as capsicum, fennel and/or parsley
~ use brown sugar or molasses instead of treacle or omit altogether
~ use dijon mustard or add mustard seeds at the vegetable saute stage
~ replace the tomato paste with passata or fresh tomatoes
~ omit the chorizo or replace with chunks of bacon or proscuitto
~ use other beans such as lima or haricot beans
~ use good quality left over fat such as bacon or pork fat to saute
~ before baking dust the top with paprika

serving suggestions

~ top with a poached egg
~ serve with sausages
~ add grated cheese and crispy bacon (omit chorizo)
~ serve with a salad
~ sprinkle with fresh parsley
~ use in a jaffle or a toasted sandwich if like me you threw your jaffle iron away

there is great discomfort that comes from the realisation that there is no answer to my problem and that the issue will never go away..i have a tendency to want answers and solutions but sometimes there just isn't one and that's just how it is..

Saturday, 2 August 2014

bitter grapefruit and whisky* marmalade

my girl kat brought me a whole lot of home grown fruit recently that she got from work..several of her colleagues had taken apples, lemons and grapefruit to work for anyone to help themselves but because there were so few takers i became the lucky recipient..i've made a few different things as well as this marmalade but i still have many kilos of fruit left..none of it will be wasted

bitter grapefruit and whisky marmalade
tea with hazel
makes 5 jars


1 kilo grapefruit
1 kilo sugar**
1 litre filtered water
1/3 cup whisky (i used chivas regal that was gifted to me by a friend for cooking)


~ cut the grapefruit in quarters, remove and retain any seeds, and then slice the fruit finely
~ place the seeds in a muslin square and tie up into a sachet with string
~ place the grapefruit and sachet in a large saucepan, add water, and leave overnight or for about 12 hours
~ boil the fruit for 30 minutes
~ add warmed sugar but do not allow to boil until the sugar has completely dissolved
~ once the sugar has dissolved boil rapidly, stirring every now and again, until set has been reached
~ add whisky and boil for a minute to cook out the alcohol
~ squeeze the seed sachet to extract as much pectin possible and discard the sachet
~ ladle the marmalade into warm sterilised jars and cap immediately

*   'whisky' denotes scottish whisky whereas the spelling 'whiskey' denotes irish or american whiskey
** i tasted the jam as it was reaching set and it was not sweet enough so, after removing the jam from the heat, i added an extra 250 gms of sugar..after the sugar had dissolved i brought it back to the boil and set was reached quickly

i really like the bitter flavour of you?

this post submitted to punk domestics

Sunday, 20 July 2014

have you ever?

i'd offered to make some cupcakes to take to a friend's house warming party on the weekend..i know..that's no big how come then i got there two hours later than i'd planned..part of the problem was with how i cook..instead of making something i'd cooked before i jumped in with no idea of the final outcome..the other problem was that i'd underestimated how long it would take me..i don't know whether it's because i think i'm better than i really am or that i just have really poor make matters worse my cakes really needed to be served on a plate and eaten with a fork so they were unsuitable for the party that my friend had had catered for with delicious and elegant looking finger food..i cringed as i watched people trying to eat my squashy oozy cakes..and i've no idea of how they tasted either because by the time i got there i was so wound up that i couldn't eat a thing..not even all the other delicious looking food on offer..

lemon curd and almond praline cupcakes
tea with hazel
makes 12



125 gms self raising flour sifted
30 gms almond meal
155 gms castor sugar
155 gms unsalted butter
2 eggs
75 mls milk
1 teaspoon (tsp) vanilla extract

lemon curd*

3/4 cup castor sugar
60 gms unsalted butter
4 egg yolks
100 mls lemon juice
2 tsp finely grated lemon juice

almond praline

1/2 cup castor sugar
2-3 tablespoons (tbs) water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup slivered almonds


~ cream butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy
~ beat in eggs one at a time 
~ add flour, almond meal, milk and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth
~ place mixture in a 12 hole cupcake case lined tin and bake at 180 deg c for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and cooked in the centre 

lemon curd

~ beat sugar and egg yolks until creamy and thick
~ place in saucepan with other ingredients and cook over a pan of simmering water stirring constantly until just coming to the boil and the mixture is thickened
~ cool before use

almond praline

~ place almonds on baking paper lined tray and cook at 180 deg c until slightly browned
~ set aside to cool
~ place water and lemon juice in a saucepan and stir until the sugar crystals dissolved brushing down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in boiling water
~ once the sugar has dissolved increase heat and cook until the sugar turns a medium caramel colour
~ remove from heat and immediately pour over the almonds
~ once cooled process the almond toffee finely leaving a few small pieces of toffee


~ remove a large conical circle of cake from each cupcake
~ trim the cake off close to the cake top, cut shapes from the tops (i used heart and flower shapes), and dust the shapes with icing sugar
~ fill each cupcake to the top with curd
~ sprinkle the curd generously with almond praline
~ dab a small amount of lemon curd on the bottom of each shape and place one in the centre of each cupcake

note: * adapted from stephanie alexander's lemon curd recipe in 'a cook's companion'

have you ever? come on..please tell me i'm not the only one..

Thursday, 10 July 2014

frugal friday

there's a wonderful independent grocer/green grocer not far from where i's not one of those super sophisticated places where to shop there comfortably you need to get dressed in your finery, have a manicure and a blow's more laid back..

i like shopping there for several reasons..for one thing it's a family run business and as such the shop has an intimate and friendly atmosphere..and they stock a great range of products some of which are not available in the conglomorates that are threatening to take over the country..for instance i can get trachana and pasta for pastichio there..and they're not caught in a time warp because they stock a variety of spelt and gluten free thing i particularly like are the huge bins they have out the front of the shop which are laden with seasonal fruit and vegetables..most of it is not of conglomerate supermarket quality..but it is still good quality..for instance yesterday i bought new seasons apples and of the apples had the occasional branch mark, they weren't all uniform in size and some were misshapen but otherwise they were perfectly fine..same with the oranges..navels and valencias were mixed up together and some had too thick skin but they're easily avoided..they were $0.98 and $0.78 a kilo respectively..and i bought a 2 kilo bag of slightly brown skin bananas for $2..i ate one later..perfect..not soft at all..and even if one or two do go a bit soft before i can eat them all au naturale i'll just make smoothies with them..and they had lovely large fennel bulbs that i bought for a $1 each..they also had 5 kilo bags of potatoes for $2 but i didn't get one because i'd already bought a bag for the same price a few weeks earlier..ten kilo sacks of onions rarely cost more than $6 there so i always buy them this way and i rarely have any rot..i just keep them in a cool place and if any start to sprout i just use those in stock..

it never ceases to surprise me that anyone would choose to pay more at a conglomorate supermarket when this shop is only 100 metres away..i've done a rough and ready calculation and worked out that the fruit and vegetables i bought yesterday cost a third of what it would have cost me at the supermarket..and i wonder if some of the people shopping in the supermarket are also those who find that food prices are increasing..go figure!

roasted fennel and potato soup
tea with hazel


1 large female* fennel bulb
6 -8 small potatoes**
3 medium onions** 
4-6 garlic cloves (i used homegrown)
2 teaspoons (tsp) fennel seeds*** 
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (i used my own homegrown, dried flakes)
2 litres stock**** (i used homemade)
salt and pepper
olive oil
extra chilli flakes or tabasco


~ remove stems from fennel bulb, retain fronds and cut bulb into thick slices
~ cut potato and onion into medium chunks
~ place fennel, potato, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, and chilli flakes in a large shallow baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
~ bake at 180 deg c until the vegetables are starting to caramelise
~ remove vegetables to a saucepan along with the stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft
~ puree the soup with a stick blender or in a blender
~ serve garnished with fennel fronds, a dusting of chilli and a drizzle of olive oil


*       they're tastier..or so they tell me..
**     the potatoes and onions in the bags i'd purchased were small to medium in size
***   i used seeds collected in summer from plants that have naturalised in parts of the dandenongs
**** i retained the carcass and the vegetables from boiling an organic and free range chook for soup stock and i roasted and reboiled both to create a second but just as flavoursome stock


not including electricity and gas costs this soup, which would be enough to feed about 6-8 people, cost about $1.30..add a loaf of homemade sourdough and you've got a very cheap and nutritious meal..

happy weekend one and all

Saturday, 5 July 2014

galactoboureko with fortified wine and spice poached crab apples

bougatsa, galatopita and galactoboureko are some of my favourite greek sweets..whenever i go back to greece i make a beeline for a little hole in the wall shop in pagrati athens for bougatsa (they also sell spinach, meat and cheese pie)..i always worry that the shop might have disappeared but it's always right there where it's always been and with the same pies that i've loved since i was living there in the 70's..

they're great pies to eat for a quick breakfast on the run..when you go there the generous sized pieces of pie are already cut from larger pies that are cooked off site on huge trays..and when you order a piece the man working's always a man..wraps the pie ordered in greaseproof paper and pops it into a paper bag..the exchange of paper bag and money is so quick and easy..i don't remember the exact cost but they're not expensive and they're really good quality..

while i love the quick and easy on the go bougatsa my favourite way of eating it is sitting down at a table either in a zacharoplasteion..cake shop..or in a bougatsaria..where they only sell bougatsa and coffee..with a glass of cold water and a greek coffee with 'ligi' zakeri..a little sugar......bougatsaria aren't everywhere in greece my travels i once came across a small seemingly anachronistic bougatsaria in soufli in the north east of greece early one morning while i was waiting for a was the only place open at the time and it was, again, run by a had the best bougatsa ever..and i also know of a couple of iconic bougatsaria in ioannina where my former husband comes from..i'm sure there are many others that i don't know of..yet..the reason i like to eat bougatsa at zacharoplasteia or bougatsaria is because of the way it's served on a plate, cut up into small bite sized pieces and dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, and eaten with a desert's so relaxing eating it this way..

as i said earlier bougatsa is often consumed on the run and often for breakfast whereas galatopita and galactoboureko are eaten sitting down in a cafe (or it's bought to take home or as a gift) and it's eaten later in the day..greek people don't tend to eat a sweet course after a meal but they do love to linger in a cafe with a sweet little something and a coffee in the afternoon or at night..another difference is that bougatsa is thin..about one to two centimetres thick..but galatopita and galactoboureko are thicker and can range from between four to six or more centremetres thick..and instead of being dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon as bougatsa is both galatopita and galactoboureko are doused generously in a citrus or floral sugar syrup...and incidentally the only difference i can ascertain between galatopita and galactoboureko is that galatopita has filo on the bottom only and galactoboureko has filo on both top and bottom..anyway..whichever way they come they are all me..and most greeks!

tea with hazel
makes 12 generous sized serving pieces


30 gms butter
200 gms fine semolina
2 litres milk (i used unhomogenised organic milk)
1 1/4 cups sugar* (or more or less according to taste)
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla (i used my own)
10-12 filo pastry sheets
melted butter


~ in a large saucepan melt butter and once bubbling add semolina and stir for a few minutes to lightly toast and then take off heat
~ slowly add milk while whisking to prevent lumps forming
~ return the saucepan to the heat and cook until thickened and just coming to the boil
~ remove from the heat and add sugar, vanilla and, while stirring well to prevent the mixture curdling, slowly add the eggs
~ pour mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps
~ set aside to cool
~ butter a 32 cm x 22 cm x 4cm tin and layer with 6 buttered filo sheets allowing the excess to hang over the sides of the tin
~ pour the semolina custard in the tin and layer with a further 4-5 buttered filo sheets folded in half
~ bring the over hanging filo sheets over the top filo layers and brush the top with butter
~ spray the top with water to help prevent the filo lifting during baking
~ bake at 180 deg c for 40-50 minutes or until the top is browned and the custard set


* a greek cook would typically use a lot more sugar in this type of recipe than i did

fortified wine and spice poached crab apples

fortified wine and spice poached crab apples 
tea with hazel


1 kg organic crab apples* stalks intact
500 mls fortified wine (i used pfeiffer topaque**)
1-2 tablespoons sugar or more according to taste
1/2 to 1 cinnamon quill
3-4 cloves
2 cumquats*** (or use orange peel with white pith removed)


~ place wine, sugar, spices and cumquats in a large, shallow saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar
~ once the sugar has dissolved bring to the boil, reduce the heat to barely a simmer, add just enough crab apples to form a single layer, cover with a cartouche (to avoid too much evaporation), and cook gently, lifting the paper and turning the fruit every so often so that the crab apples cook evenly
~ remove any crab apple as soon as starting to soften
~ cook the remaining crab apples in batches in the same manner
~ refrigerate and use within about two weeks


*     i used malus gorgeous crab apples picked from my own tree
**   i used this wine because i rarely drink and i had half of a bottle languishing..i didn't have enough so i opened another bottle! the wine was gifted to me by my daughter kat who had been gifted the wine by the wine maker who is a friend of hers
*** yeah i've got thousands of them so i use them in everything possible

serving suggestions

~ serve as the greeks typically do with a flavoured sugar syrup or do as i did and serve the galactoboureko with just a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon, or, both that and some poached crab apples and the delicious fortified wine and spice syrup..the crab apples have a slight tartness which compliments the sweetness of the custard and syrup..either way is me..not sure if most greeks would approve of me mucking around with an already great recipe..

dedicated to my boy nicholas who left for greece this week
and to his girl ruby who joins him in a month
they worked so hard to make their trip happen
so proud
so much love