Tuesday, 30 September 2014

FIVE ways to improve your cooking starting NOW.

Following is my quick list of FIVE simple ways that I believe will really help improve your cooking.
An easy step by step guide to success if you like!
There are countless things you can do to improve but this quick list is achievable for all cooks- whether you are a beginner or an established cook.
Not one of them involves buying expensive equipment or having a state of the art kitchen- I don't believe that is what makes anyone a good cook.

1.) READ the recipe.
By read it I mean to read it over and over. Each time you read it you will probably see a step you missed before.
Most of you will have watched cooking competition shows and seen time & time again the participants who miss vital parts to a recipe only to wonder what happened to their masterpiece. HEARTBREAKING.  A recipe is like a person holding your hand through the steps. Make use of it & let it be what takes away the stress.
It may help you to make some quick step by step notations of your own to have handy.
If you are unsure of a cooking term, then google it ahead of cooking to find out exactly what the instructions mean. Or ask me! I love to help people out in the kitchen- that is what this blog is ALL about!

Preparation is your best friend in the kitchen.
A cook who has a plan is a cook who will have more success.
That said, I love to fly by the seat of my pants but if you are a beginner having all of your food chopped and a plan of action you will find the whole cooking experience far more enjoyable. Once you have gained confidence you will be able to be more spontaneous and you will notice you get speedier at things too.

3.) Have SHARP knives.
There is NOTHING more frustrating to me than working with blunt knives.
It may be worth paying someone to professionally sharpen your knives to see the best result but let me tell you it is WORTH every penny!
Despite what you may think, you are LESS likely to cut yourself with a super sharp knife than you are with a blunt knife.

4.) Stop STIRRING.
This is a step that lots of beginners get wrong and that is ok! Most of us are starting out. This tip can be a total game changer for a LOT of people.
Our natural tendency in the kitchen is to stand over those pans and stir, stir, stir.
It's fun and it feels as though we are doing good things. Sometimes though we are not doing our cooking any favours by stirring. All in good time!
There is real value to be gained in terms of flavour by starting off at a high heat and leaving your meat still in the pan to develop a good brown coating.
YES it will spit and sound crayzee loud! This is all good stuff- (using a splatter guard may be helpful to you to achieve this!)
As the meat develops this lovely browned effect it will separate itself away from the pan,  naturally coming away from the surface so there is no need to stir. You can then turn it and repeat on the other side.
Stirring reduces the heat on the cooking surface and then the meat stews- not what we want.
Even if you are making a stew- start off by caramelising your meat by leaving it STILL.
There is a place for stirring but it is not all the time!

None of us started of as brilliant cooks. Anyone who is a good cook has practised a LOT.
I started cooking for the family when I was TEN years old. That means I have had more than 30 years experience and countless failures along the way. Every single failure was a lesson learnt. TRUE! Failing is an important part of becoming a success.
Start with simple dishes and simple techniques and gain confidence in the small steps along the way before you venture to more difficult techniques. It is fine to have a small repertoire of dishes that you feel good about cooking before you broaden your horizons!

This is by no means an exhaustive list but five ways which will really help you in the kitchen to achieve success.

Happy cooking
(feel free to share this list around to as many people as you think need to read it).

Very soon you'll be a Master of the kitchen just like the Swedish Chef!

The last of Winter, the beginning of Spring

All around me are signs of change.
I wake early to an abundance of light.
My head is heavy with pollen.

There is laughter from children around me on school holidays.

In the veggie patch there is abundance of green.
The broad beans have begun to give their jewelled green pods.
The silverbeet is heaving, happy to be regularly trimmed to allow new stems to mature.

My legs are bare of coloured & patterned tights but there are still as always, clogs upon my feet.

The fire is no longer being lit.
It is the end of the Winter's season of giving & the beginning of the Spring bounty.
Changes of season are always a time of reflection for me. A noticing of things I enjoy and will miss.

Citrus are coming to an end & so I am eating the last of the Oranges, keen to savour every last mouthful of flavour.

Growing your own food gives an extra sense of the fragility of our food system, an understanding of how it ebbs and flows all the while relying on factors out of our control.

This morning I harvested a large armful of silverbeet keen to have a green brekky.
I had some bread that needed to be re-utilised (here as breadcrumbs) and some oranges I was keen to use. And so here is what I made.

It is so special being able to eat a meal that no more than 30 minutes before was growing in your yard.

Gremolata is an Italian topping- probably most commonly known on top of the classic peasant dish OSSO BUCO.
It is a mix of Parsley, Lemon peel, and Garlic. I make mine the way I have always known according to the classic cook book by Ada Boni with the addition of Anchovies to add a salty richness to the mix. HEAVENLY.
Today though I didn't add anchovies and substituted the lemon for Orange rind.
A perfect match for the Silverbeet.

This is a delightful dish. Bold enough to stand on it's own or a perfect accompaniment for fish, eggs  or lamb.

  • a bunch of silver beet
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • a bunch of parsley
  • zest and juice of an orange
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • olive oil
  • 1 tspn cumin seeds
In a food processor blitz the garlic, orange zest & parsley till mixed together and chopped fine.
Add 4 tablespoons of the gremolata to the breadcrumbs and set aside.

Chop the silverbeet including the stems- there is no reason to waste them!
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan to a medium heat.
Add garlic and cumin seeds and fry gently for a minute.
Add the silverbeet stems and fry for another minute.
Now add the leaves and the reserved orange juice.
Cover and steam till silverbeet is wilted- this will only take a minute or two.

Place the silverbeet in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the breadcrumb/gremolata mix over the top.
Place under the grill until breadcrumb browns.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sausage rolls (Vego & Meat versions): The Perfect School Holiday food

We are enjoying the slow down that holidays bring on at our place.
Well to be honest- it is my kids who have slowed down and not me at all!
I have been working super hard the last few days to get my Clever Clogs Cooking Club mail orders delivered before the end of the month.
Yesterday I posted them all.

I really LOVE putting these together every month and sincerely hope my members are enjoying them too.
It has been an extra challenge doing it all with the kids (and their friends) around too- it certainly made me appreciate my 'alone' working time!

Invariably holidays also means that my life becomes one of Short Order chef also.
There are often extra (hungry) people to feed so cooking portions are often doubled to accomodate the extras (and frozen if not eaten, although that is rare!)

I have published both of these recipes before but I thought it would be helpful to have  them in one place as a reference.
I cooked both as we were accomodating both meat eaters and vegetarians yesterday, although one of my children (and I) prefer the vegetarian version of these- they are SOOOOO delicious!

Sausage rolls are quick to make & delicious to eat.
I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a good Sauso!

Like most things- home made ones are incomparable to the often nasty store bought ones.
They are easy enough that your kids could make them as well as eat them!

Ours are enjoyed with our homemade Tomato Sauce that we make in Tassie with our lovely friends- you can read all about the making of here.

I have published this recipe before here.
Yesterday I substituted the fetta for a tub of Cottage cheese & added a touch of chilli. They were totally scrumptious!

  • 1 x 250g packet frozen spinach
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 150g grated cheese
  • 150g crumbled fetta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs (reserve a little bit for basting the pastry)
  • S& P
Preheat oven to 200C.

Mix all ingredients (not the puff pastry!) in a large bowl.

Cut the puff pastry sheets in half.

Spoon mixture into the centre of each pastry sheet, roll over and tuck in so all of the stuffing is tucked in nicely.

Place baking paper onto an oven tray.

Turn over so the joint seam is on the bottom & lay the rolls onto the baking paper.
Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are feeling fancy!

Bake for 25-30 mins or until nicely browned.

Remove and eat or cool and freeze ready to pop out for emergency meals!

 I have published this recipe before here.


  • 500g Pork mince
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 slices stale sourdough, crusts removed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 chorizo sausage, skin peeled off and cut into chunks
  • rind of half a lemon
  • a good handful of Italian parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika (regular sweet will work if you don't have the Spanish variety)
  • 1 large red chilli, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons good tomato sauce (I use our homemade one- use tomato relish rather than bought sauce if you can, it will give a better flavour)
  • 4 sheets puff pastry, sliced in half
  • egg wash

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Add the bread, chorizo, garlic, parsley, lemon rind, & chilli to a food processor and blitz till the ingredients are a crumb.

 Remove and add to a large mixing bowl.

Now add the pork mince to the food processor and blitz (pulse mode) till almost a paste but still with a little texture.

Add to the other ingredients and add the tomato sauce.  Mix with your hands till all ingredients are mixed well.

Add the mince mix to the middle of the halved sheet of puff and roll over the ends.

Slice to desired size and place on baking paper.

Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

We have been playing this song super loud. 
Such a happy making toon from a fave band!

Monday, 22 September 2014

How to make a Date, Carrot & Walnut Cake

It's school holidays here.

My favourite time.

Sleeping past alarms, breakfast at lunchtime and a revolving door of people coming and going.

I like to have a cake baked to offer with coffee when friends drop by.

Yesterday I baked a carrot and walnut cake and although it was delicious it wasn't as moist and fluffy as I would have hoped. I used this recipe.
Although I have to admit that any cake slathered in Cream Cheese frosting has to be a winner to some degree right?

Today I made up my own recipe and unbelievably it worked ( I am a pretty intuitive cook with savoury food but I am not usually as successful with baking- soooo many rules!)

It turned out exactly as I wanted yesterdays attempt to.

So happy.

Even better as it is a one bowl wonder- the BEST kind.

I hope you make it and love it as much as I do!

It will definitely be getting made again.

I loved the amount of walnuts in yesterdays cake - they add delicious bite- but it needed extra fluff and moisture and the dates are what provided that.
I also snuck in some shredded coconut for a bit of added texture and bite. 

I am also a big fan of cakes that use olive oil. I only had extra virgin in the pantry - I was worried that the flavour might ruin the cake but there was no hint of it.
A very forgiving cake it seems!


1 cup chopped dates
3 grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup SR flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp Bi carb
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder

150g cream cheese
130g icing sugar
50g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest & juice of a lemon

Preheat oven to 175C.

Place all ingredients in bowl, mix through & place into greased and lined 23cm springform tin.

Place in oven for an hour or until skewer comes out clean.

Let completely cool before spreading cream cheese frosting.(made by mixing icing sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest & juice together).

This song is getting a lot of airplay in our kitchen by my big kids at the moment.
Also.....look out for the Pikachu plane- I didn't even know that existed!
HOW AWESOME!!! *faints*

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Family Table: Part : Part 12. CHARLIE GLADSTONE from PEDLARS.

A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.

It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.

While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my new series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together.
My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.

This week I am sharing with you a friend from across the globe.
We share a common love of large families, collecting vintage goodness, laughing & not being too serious, music played on record players, campfires, Land Rovers, and generally seeing the positive side in life.

Charlie Gladstone is the owner of Pedlars, a business he created & runs with his wife Caroline selling Wonderful Stuff for your home- some new, some Vintage. They have an online store and a real life store (Pedlars General Store and Cafe) that you can visit in Notting Hill, London .  They have made a gorgeous family with six children.

They also run a super doop Pub called The Glynne Arms in Wales, that they painstakingly renovated in 2012 as well as their fab award winning shop in Wales, Hawarden Estate Farm shop.
Together they have created a gorgeous brand that centres around celebrating life and love.  They split their life living in the Highlands of Scotland & London and spend Summer in France with their six children and five dogs, all the while travelling around the globe purchasing the fabulous Vintage treasure that is sold weekly via the Pedlars website.
Added to this amazing list of accomplishments is the publication of their very lovely book The Great Outdoors- all about taking the time to put everything down in favour of heading outside and the benefits that this gives all of us. Every family should own a copy!
Phew! AMAZING right?! What lovely people to share all of their great ideas and super stuff with us.  I am so thankful for people like Charlie & Caroline- as they help remind us to see that it is about how valuable it is to take the time to make opportunities for our families and to see the value in celebrating the simple pleasures in life.
This weekend they are hosting their very first Good Life Experience festival. I have loved watching the ever growing line-up of amazing guests. It really is a celebration of their Philosophy on life.
This day long event will be held at their Hawarden Farm Shop in Wales and is all about celebrating Culture, Food and the Great Outdoors- how RAD is that?!
I know it will be an enormous success - I just wish I could be there!
Thank You so very much Charlie for being this weeks guest at my Family Table.

1.) Can you please share a little about how your family shares food?

We are very old-fashioned. We always eat at the table, we lay things up properly, we decorate it as well as we can.  Phones are banned. We always drink wine in the evening, always. Now I think about it, this is fundamental to the way we have brought up the children and developed as a family.

2.) Do you have hard & fast eating rules? 

Other than those above....well, breakfast is quiet and no-one needs to talk. Reading is encouraged at the breakfast table. We always sit down to lunch together in the holidays.

3.) Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?

All over. I tend to imitate pictures I have seen because I lack the patience for following recipe instructions. Caroline, my wife, is the opposite, as is our eldest, Jack; they are much more precise. Having said that, Caroline is an incredibly intuitive and adventurous cook, with a real understanding of flavour, and I am not sure that can be taught by a recipe book.

4.) Do you have a favourite cuisine?

While travelling I have probably enjoyed Vietnamese and Indian food best, but I also love Spanish, Italian and British. French is a bit of an odd cuisine, not really sure what it is anymore. We have been to Morocco- we love the place- many times but I loathe their bloody Tagines- it makes me feel sick just thinking about them.

5.) Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever? 

I always come back to an incredible dinner we had in Bogota. We had just arrived and we were knackered and slightly anxious as Colombia had a reputation for danger back then.  The hotel told us to remove our rings and watches to be safe on the streets. Anyway, we found a restaurant and it was just what we wanted.  We both ate a sort of warm chicken and corn soup with cold avocado and it hit the spot in a way that I will never forget.  I don't know why I will never forget it, but food does that sometimes.

6.) Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?

If I am cooking my default would be a campfire in our fields or one of our wood burning ovens.  I would marinade some thin steak in Olive Oil, with loads of Rosemary, masses of Lemon and even more Garlic for a few hours.  Then I'd slap it onto the fire, on a grill, covered in masses more rosemary. When it was cooked, I'd let it rest and then slice it thinly and chick it back into the marinading bowl. With that I'd serve a gently pickled Cucumber Salad made by peeling the cucumber, thinly slicing it and putting it in the fridge for an afternoon smothered in whatever white vinegar I had to hand and some toasted Mustard seeds.  I cooked that the other night on a hot fire and it rocked.

7.) What music would be playing? 
And on the record player I'd have something like Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I'd used to think that early 70's stuff was for smelly old hippies but recently I have been buying loads of second hand vinyls by artists I have heard of but never really listened to, and it's a treat (probably because I am now a smelly old hippy). xx

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Gift of Giving

Did you grow up in an area where when you wandered the local streets there would be bags of citrus fruits out the front of people's houses waiting to be taken by those who needed them?

On the weekend we did a garden clean up.

The last of our building works are very nearly done and so we turn our efforts back to the garden.

As soon as the majority of the renovation was done very late last year I got the veggie beds ready to re-plant & started growing seedlings.

The beds are now filled with  Broccoli, Silverbeet, kale, Cime de Rapa and the now plentifully flowering Broad beans. The beds are looking verdant & plentiful.

As well as the veggies I plant a lot of herbs.

These are almost more important to me.  I use them in all of my cooking.
I can not imagine food without herbs & spices.

In our garden we have Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Chives, Sage, Coriander, Tarragon, Thyme & Mint.

Our Rosemary bushes are in full flower and getting enormously BIG.

They needed a good ol' trim back & there was way more than I could possibly use.

I guess the trimmings could have gone in the green waste but I immediately thought to bundle them up & hang them on my fence to gift to those who needed it.

I shared my gesture on Instagram & my Facebook page and the response was phenomenal. It left me thinking. I hadn't thought that much of what I did. I just kind of thought it was a neighbourly thing.
The response made me think that maybe it was really unusual.
I was pleased that I had inspired others to give it a go too. Sharing ideas can be a really cool thing.
A way of giving others the courage to give something a try.

I have always loved giving away produce from my garden.  I always have more than I can use.

The past few weeks I have gifted several Edible Bouquets to friends- for birthdays and just 'because'.

I love giving.  It fills the heart. To see the joy of the recipient. A smile.  A hug. The pleasure of doing something nice for no other reason than that it feels good.  No need for a reason. No hidden agenda. Being good for the sake of being good. Sometimes it's not important to even see the recipient receive- it is just nice to throw a bit of kindness out to the universe and hope it gets caught by someone in need.

I encourage everyone to do it.
Let's all do it together this Spring.
Let's dust off the Winter grumps and leap into spring with the Gift of kindness.

The idea is to Give for no other reason than giving itself.  Maybe you will give something from your garden too or maybe it will be a random act of kindness, a donation to a charity via the Shout for Good app, maybe a cake to a pal who needs some sweetness, or a dinner for a family in need of a bit of support, or a letter to tell someone they are ace, or perhaps a note to a friend, or even just a hug- hugs are best!

Let's all dive in and give the gift of kindness this Spring.

I never tire of listening to Kurt......