Monday, 26 September 2016

Malteser Chocolate Pots - And A Book Review

Ooh, can I tell you how much I love Sophie Thompson?  I always knew she was a wonderful actress: remember that scene in Emma where Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) makes fun of Miss Bates, Sophie's character?  The completely heartbroken, humiliated look on her face as she realises what Emma meant will stay with me forever.

Emma and Mr Knightley (public domain-1898) 

And now I know she is also a terrific cook who won Celebrity MasterChef UK in 2014, and a lovely artist as you can see by the sketches in this book.  And let's not forget her amazing acting family - sister Emma and mum Phyllida Law who is still going strong at 84.  Sophie sings, she dances, she writes books...Oh and did I mention that hilarious sex scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral?

And speaking of sex, what's the next best thing?  Chocolate you ninny.  Well, maybe better than!  So anyway, I was delighted to find a recipe for choc pots here, which uses Maltesers too.  Not much can be better than that.  I had been of a mind to make Nigella's choc pots, but then I picked up Sophie's book, et voilà!  Sadly for the state of my waistline, I am a secret Malteser fiend.  Mr P.'s mum gave us a big packet recently; I don't think he got a look in at all. :=)  So this was a no-brainer for moi.     

deliciousness in a tiny pot  

Serves 4:


150g. dark and/or milk chocolate - throw in some white if you like

50g. Maltesers + extra 30g. for the top

1 tsp vanilla extract

40 mls boiling water

100 mls thickened cream

a few cacao nibs (optional)


First melt your chocolate and Maltesers.  Here is where I differed from Sophie who tells you to do it the old-fashioned way with a bain-marie.  Sorry Sophie - these days we chuck it in the microwave for about 70 seconds till melted

Give it all a good stir and bash the hard Malteser centres to break them up

Add the vanilla and the boiling water - a bit at a time.  I got a bit frisky and chucked in half then the other half - all good

Grab your whisk and whisk in the cream in a steady stream

Spoon/pour the mixture into 4 wee ramekins and chill for a few hours

I whizzed the extra Maltesers and the cacao nibs together till I had a nice choc dust, and sprinkled it over the pots 


I had a thought that maybe whipping the cream first and folding it into the chocolate mix could be a goer.  Next time...

I also added a few dark choc covered coffee beans for extra oomph

The choc dust on top was my idea, but I think Sophie may have been more sensible, as it is very sweet already

just a few ingredients needed to make this quick and delish dessert   

look at those shiny little dark orbs - drooling me    

melted and ready for the cream 

pour in the cream and whisk it steadily  

spooning it out into 4 ramekins    

now zap your balls into dust   

and zapped!

tiny wee pots of chocolate that will knock your socks off   

I know they look small, but they are potent.  Just a perfect little ending to a good healthy meal of fish and steamed veg, which we had on the weekend with Princess Pia.  And of course dark chocolate is so good for you with its antioxidants and tryptophans. Did you know it is number 3 on the top ten list for antioxidant-rich foods?  Goji berries are number one, so stuff your face with those dark choc coated berries I say:=)  

Right, Sophie's book: I am enjoying it.  It has lots of family photos, plenty of her sweet sketches, and loads of easy, family recipes that she has gathered over the years.  The book is the usual sort of layout; it goes from soups and starters, through meat and fish, and ends with pud - i.e. English for dessert.  I love the list of her pantry staples, probably because it looks so much like mine.

Her recipes are well written, with clear instructions, and plenty of white space between the steps so your (my) little brain doesn't get confused.  There are lots of familiar recipes like fishcakes, pickled onions, schnitzel, and lasagne with Sophie's twists.  But also heaps of more daring dishes like braised Indian eggplant, babotie, coconut dahl, trendy pork belly and so on.  So my verdict is: lovely book with appealing and easy to make recipes.  I have quite a few on my to-make list now. 

my Maltesers doodle 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

A- Z Guidebook: Poseidon's Temple, Cape Sounion, Greece

Poseidon's Temple 

Here we are on our backpacking adventures when we were young and foolish.  We were staying in a very insalubrious youth hostel in the Plaka in Athens.  This was our first experience of the cardboard box for used toilet paper.   There were stern instructions about definitely NOT flushing it down the loo.  Oh the horror of sitting on the throne with a huge boxful next to you!

We took a day trip down to Cape Sounion to check out Poseidon's Temple.  I don't think we ever found the scratched-in graffiti of Lord Byron's signature on the base of one of the columns.  We all look kind of grumpy here.  Maybe that lurking cardboard box?...

Join in with Tiffin Fiona - but hurry 'cos today's the last day of the monthly linky - in this travel roundup of places near and far.

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -

Monday, 19 September 2016

Asparagus Forced In French Rolls

I had such fun doing my History of Royal Food course.  And heaps of fun making and eating the weird dishes which were part of it.  I didn't make this one at the time as the only asparagus you could then get was from Mexico.  Mexico!?  So I waited till Spring and now I have been able to use good old Aussie asparagus.  I know it sounds weird and looks kinda weird, but amazingly it was pretty delicious.  

looks cute huh?

I don't think I had ever eaten asparagus till I was an adult, and probably even then only from a jar.  My parents were Ye typical British stock kind of eaters - meat and 2 veg, boiled to death.  And yet I remember eating tinned lambs' tongues; our Nanna used to give mum weird care packages which included whole coconuts and pink musk sticks. Oh yeah, not strange at all. :=)  

This is a late Georgian side dish, taken from the Housekeeper's Instructor c. 1800. The intent of this amusing little item was to "subvert Nature and engage the intellect". Phew, and there was I thinking it would just make a great Sunday lunch.


2 bunches of asparagus - about 16 spears

5 x 15cm. French bread sticks - or cut a long baguette into 15cm. lengths

30 - 40g. butter 

2 tsp of olive oil

454 mls of cream

3 large egg yolks, beaten with a fork

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

a few grinds of black pepper 

2 level tsp of cornflour

1 tbs (20mls.) water

1/2 cup parmesan, grated 


Steam or boil the asparagus till tender

Chop each spear into 4 equal lengths and put aside

Cut out the tops of the bread sticks making sure you leave plenty of the sides - like a little boat

Dig out most of the crumb from the sticks and put aside

Carve out a couple of holes in the tops if you wish to create the "small grass" effect; I only did one as an example

Melt about 10g. of the butter in a frying pan till it sizzles

Place the sticks in the pan and let them go golden

Turn them once or twice so they don't burn

Add the oil and more butter as you go

Once the sticks are golden, put them aside till the custard is ready

Grab a medium saucepan and pour in the cream

Add the beaten egg-yolks and whisk them in

Put onto a low heat and keep whisking till it starts to thicken; don't stop otherwise you risk scrambled eggs

When it is looking thick enough - i.e. it leaves a thick ribbon on the surface, add the salt, nutmeg and pepper

Here is where I added the cornflour slurry as my custard refused to go thick - so stir the cornflour and water together and add to the hot custard.  Mr P. was stirring for me, and he said it went instantly thick.  If your custard looks thick enough to you, leave out the slurry

Now take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese

Gently add the chopped asparagus into the custard mix

Let it cool slightly

Make (or get hubby to make like I did) some alfoil boats for your sticks

Place the bread into the boats, fill with custard, place the lid on top, squish the alfoil around the base so it is all secure

Bake at 180C for about 10-12 minutes


FYI - a regular baguette is around 65 cm.

454mls is an old UK pint of 16 fluid ounces which is used in this recipe (UK pint is now 20 fl. oz.)

Use your fave cheese if you don't have parmesan

Bake the crumbs and any leftover French stick in a 180C oven for a few minutes till dried out, then blitz in a processor.  Whack the crumbs in a freezer bag and bob's your uncle for next time you need bread crumbs


steam the asparagus  

cut out the tops of the French sticks and pull out the crumbs   

dig out the holes; a bit like a Zorro mask

fry them in butter and oil

throw in the salt, nutmeg and pepper once the custard has thickened  

stir in the asparagus 

ready to stuff the sticks with custard 

into the alfoil boats for baking  

cheesy, oozy and damn fine

my asparagus doodle 

Original recipe Henderson, Housekeeper’s Instructor, c.1800 Cut a piece out of the crust of the tops of three French rolls, and take out all the crumb; but be careful that the crusts fit again in the places from whence they were taken. Fry the rolls brown in fresh butter; then take a pint of cream, the yolks of six eggs beat fine, and a little salt and nutmeg. Stir them well together over a slow fire till it begins to be thick. Have ready a hundred of small grass boiled, and save tops enough to stick the rolls with. Cut the rest of the tops small, put them into the cream, and fill the loaves with them. Before you fry the rolls, make holes thick in the top crusts to stick the grass in. Then lay on the pieces of crust, and stick the grass in, which will make it look as if it were growing. This makes a very handsome side dish at a second course.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

British Colonial Co Bar And Dining - Review

"Let's go out for a late lunch", said Mr P.  No argument from me. "Let's try that new place opposite the Hawthorne cinemas," I replied.  A done deal, so into the car we hopped for a quick drive across town.  We found the British Colonial Co. looking all new and shiny, next to another new place Downtown Istanbul.  Mr P. nearly jumped ship at that point.  "How about that place?", he queried.  "Next time!", I told him as I steered him into the bar cum eatery.

heading in  

Our waiter was I think French, and a bit hard to understand (and I am damn good at accents, people).  The menu has a large cocktail component which takes up the first half of the pages.  Sadly, cocktails were out the afternoon we were there.  The explanation seemed to be that they were rewriting their Spring cocktails.  I was just a tad surprised that this meant they couldn't cough up a regular type drink e.g. a Bloody Mary for instance but no.  So I ended up with a very plain, not very pleasant, overpriced glass of Sauv Blanc.  The wine menu was not inspiring I have to say.  I guess the non-existent cocktails are their thang?! 

Sauv Blanc for me $10, ginger beer for Mr P. $4  

The French? waiter told me my choice of beef cheeks was a good one. Sadly I think I have to disagree.  After having had a superb version just the week before somewhere else, this was a bit weird. Shredded for a start so it looked abominable. Why??  And it was kind of dried out.  Mmm not that pleasant.  Oh, and it needed salt, but no salt and pepper shakers on the table.  I did see the waiter offering his huge, phallic pepper mill to other tables but not us.

Eastern beef cheeks $23.50  

Okay so it was priced appropriately=tick.  The pumpkin/sweet potato purée was tasty=tick. Quinoa not bad=tick.  But all in all, it just didn't have any pizzazz.  And sorry, but I loathe those chokey green things on top.  Not my fave dish then.

honey roasted pumpkin salad $18.50     

Mr P. thought this was tasty but "light on".   He felt there should have been more on the plate.  Halloumi slightly overcooked, but pumpkin "good".  This was an okay dish but not enough for him. "So glad I ordered the potatoes too", he said.    

potatoes bravas $11 

These little baked potatoes were good.  We loved the smoked paprika on top.  Just a wee bit overcooked though, so slightly limp. Mr P. says the pepper aioli was "quite nice".  

There was also a female waitress who seemed to be rather unhappy that day.  Chairs were uncomfortable, atmosphere the same.  We just didn't understand the whole colonial thing.  Sorry guys, just not my fave experience.  

looking back at the bar   

Verdict:  sorry we won't hurry back.

274 Hawthorne Rd., Hawthorne.
Ph: 0408 677 467

British Colonial Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Chicken Bake

Let me tell you, I feel guilty about eating chickens (and pigs). Every time I see one of those PETA ads, I almost swear off meat. But for now I am just a guilt-ridden meat-eater.  At least until my guilt overrides my lust for flesh.  Oh well, at least eat free-range and organic, people.  Not organic people...Nearly forgot the comma.

Like most mammals, I adore chicken.  Well, except when they are crazed and kamikaze chooks.  Have I told you the story about the insane chooks belonging to our childhood neighbour? We had an outside toilet and these insane animals would burst in through the door and attack us while we were on the loo.  One of the siblings would have to stand there with a broom and try to fend them off. Ah happy days!   Great childhood memories. 

File:Bantam Rooster.jpg
(copyright Eric Guinther)  

So organic free range chicken it is for dinner. And a one pot dinner is even better. For some reason Mr P. usually handles chicken dinners so he got stuck into this one for us. He sautéed up the onion and chicken pieces before it went into the oven.  Good lad:).
So as Mrs. Beeton could have said but didn't: " First catch your chicken."  Or head to the local supermarket.  Did you see that episode of The Gourmet Farmer where Matthew Evans decided that ethically and morally he had to kill his own chickens?  Eek. Brave man.

Serves 4:


2 tbs. olive oil

1 large red capsicum, chopped

6 spring onions, thinly sliced

1.1 kg. skin-off chicken thighs, half with bone in and half fillets

180g. mushrooms, sliced

a handful of olives - I used kalamata but use your fave

130 mls. red wine (use white if that's what you have)

220 mls. sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

dried oregano, thyme etc. (optional)


Pour the olive oil into a large pan or skillet

Add the capsicum and spring onions and stir for a minute 

In go the thigh cutlets (bone-in) which you have chopped into 3 pieces each

Stir and allow to cook for a few minutes

Now add the chopped thigh fillets and cook till golden on the outside, stirring every few minutes

Mushrooms go in next

Stir a bit and cook for a few more minutes

Throw in the olives

Pour in the red wine and spoon in the sour cream

Throw in the salt and pepper

You can add a few dried herbs here if you wish

If you have started this in an oven-proof skillet or pan, cover with a lid or alfoil and place in a 190C oven for about 40 minutes. Otherwise, tip the whole mixture into a baking dish and cook as above

Take out after the 40 mins, take off the lid or alfoil and back it goes into the oven for another 20 minutes

Check for seasoning

Serve with potatoes or rice


Add a splash more wine after the 40 mins. if it looks too dry

I used spring onions but you could use green onions, French shallots or regular onions if you have those in the pantry

oops, forgot to chop the chicken  

stir in the mushrooms

into the baking dish with the olives

pour on the red wine   

stir in the sour cream before baking at 190C  

ready to eat  

This is turning into a regular dinner for us, as it is so easy to make. Lovely with mashed potato or potato bake.

my red capsicum doodle

Friday, 9 September 2016

Bangalow Dining Rooms - Restaurant Review

Mr P. and I headed down to Northern Rivers again on the weekend for the Sample Food Festival.  I think we are honorary locals by now as we are down there so much. This time we stayed at an Airbnb place for the first time as we had heard from friends that it had worked out well for them in Paris.  

we had lunch at Tumbulgum while heading down to Bangalow   

We stayed in an old cottage with a friendly ghost.  Well, I don't think she was part of the deal but I definitely felt her presence.  It was actually a bit weird; I don't particularly believe in ghosts and I have never had any sort of experience with them but both nights I turned out the light, rolled over and said goodnight to the female ghost.  I didn't see her and I wasn't afraid of her, but somehow she was there as "the female ghost".  That's how the words popped into my head.  So odd.

a Japanese lady ghost (Wikimedia Commons) 

We met up with Miss B. our potter mate and had dinner at the local pub - well sort of. The Bangalow Dining Rooms are part of the building but are not licensed so you have to go to the bar and get your own drinks.  What the!?  And there is a $20 eftpos limit at the bar.  Too bad if you are on your own or only want one drink.  NSW sure does have some weird laws about serving alcohol :=)

It was Friday night, the place was hopping and the restaurant was getting full by the time Miss B. arrived after a hard day's potting. Our friendly waitress Corinne took our orders and advised us we could get drinks at the bar.  But considering that we were at a pub, the wines by the glass were few and far between.  I had a NZ Sauv Blanc while Miss B. had a pinot grigio which were $7.50 each.

drinks hauled back to our table by Miss B. and Mr P. :=) 

I am not a shucker and don't shuck at home, so have to get my oyster fix when I eat out.  Here I had a 1/2 dozen natural.  I was a bit disappointed that the menu didn't say where they were from or what kind but enjoyed the plump little beauties anyway.  I don't think they were freshly shucked to order as there was no brine on them, which detracted just a bit from my enjoyment.  

Hubby had goat's cheese cigars with rocket salad.  His words were: "crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle."  I asked him about the flavour, but he said the goat's cheese was very mild and he couldn't detect much else.  He really liked the crunchy texture though.      

1/2 doz. oysters natural $19  

entree of goat's cheese cigars with rocket salad $22 - a wee bit pricy perhaps?


Hubby liked this well enough, and Miss B. enjoyed her taste, but I think the price is a wee bit steep for what it is.  Basically $11 each for a bit of pastry and cheese - mmm...Mr P. agreed that while they were okay, he wasn't madly in love with them, and felt they were a bit over-priced.

braised beef cheeks with spaetzle, beans and sweet potato crisps $32    

Much to my own surprise, I chose braised beef cheeks for the second time in my life. And I can tell you they were superb.  Miss B. chose them too so we both delighted in their tender and hearty deliciousness.  And those cute little spaetzle ('little sparrows'). Oh my, they were wonderful. As you may know, they are basically German pasta.  The dough is pushed through a spaetzle maker which gives you tiny bits of pasta.  These were fried as well as boiled or steamed, so doubly delicious.  Our waitress told us she loved them too.  Yep pretty darn tasty little devils.  And that beef cheek - tender, melt in the mouth and so full of flavour.  We were in heaven.  Oh, and the sweet potato chips were sweet and crunchy - yum.

mushroom risotto $30 

This risotto was a huge hit with Mr P.  "Probably the best risotto I have ever had" were his words of high praise.  He is a keen rice eater, and a good risotto can be hard to find. This one made him a happy little diner.  The texture was just right - not too firm nor too sloppy.  The thyme and mushrooms were spot on, with loads of flavour.  (I snuck a forkful to check it out - yep good stuff.)

sorbet/icecream $11

We shared the dessert of yoghurt sorbet, cinnamon icecream and Christmas pudding icecream.  (Clever Corinne brought 3 spoons without us asking.)  I liked all 3 flavours but I think the cinnamon was a real hit.  Miss B. indulged in a chamomile tea ($4); I think 3 cups later she was all done in.  She hurried off home to get some much needed sleep while we strolled back to our little cottage and our ghost.

We had a truly delicious dinner here, and would love to go again soon.  Miss B. told us the chef is a friend of hers, and hails from France.  This was the Winter menu, so I am keen to try a new Season.  They also have a Pub menu, and I believe you can order from either one.

Verdict:  Great food on the whole, friendly waitress and a fine night with friends.

1 Byron St, Bangalow NSW
Ph: 02 6687 1384

Bangalow Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, 5 September 2016

Herman (Helga) The German Cake - Part 3

Remember Helga, my sourdough starter?  After I fed Helga (as I call her) for 9 days, divvied her up, and made one cake, I was left with 3 mini-Helgas, which I put in the freezer.  They have now been there for just over 3 months, so I thought it was high time I put them to good use.  I was a bit trepidatious to say the least, figuring her yeasty bubbles may have succumbed to hypothermia. But never fear, all was well.  Helga came up trumps with a plethora of bubbly goodness.  

see how yeasty and bubbly she still was after her trip to the Polar regions?   

You can apparently start the 10 day process all over again, thereby giving yourself another 4 mini-Helgas or you can just go ahead and bake with it, which is what I did. Helga did her thang and turned into another tasty cake.  I was telling our potter mate Miss B. about it on the weekend, and she said: "everyone knows you can freeze sourdough starter!"  Do they?  Was she joshing me, folks? :=) 

Don't forget to take your Helga out of the freezer the night before!!  Leave her with the lid slightly ajar, but still on.  Throw a teatowel loosely over her.  In the morning she will be bubbly and fragrant and ready to bake with.


3 eggs 

1 tbs of vanilla - yep a tablespoon folks

3/4 cup lightly flavoured vegetable oil - I used peanut but use what you have e.g. sunflower, safflower, canola

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup self-raising flour

1/4 tsp baking powder - optional if you have fresh flour - I didn't!

1 cup almond meal - or try a mix of almond and hazelnut as I did

1/2 cup (75g.) roasted hazelnuts, chopped

1/4 cup poppy seeds

3/4 cup (130g.) chocolate chips - dark or milk

zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1

1 tsp sea salt

1 portion of Helga, which is about 340g. or about 1.5 cups


Roast the hazelnuts at about 170C for 8-9 minutes till you can smell the difference - hot and toasty, then rub between 2 bits of kitchen paper or a tea towel till most of the skin comes off

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together 

Add the oil and whisk again

Now add the brown sugar, flour (and baking powder if using), almond meal, nuts, poppy seeds, choc chips, zest and juice, salt and Helga

Give it a good stir till combined

Line a deep 20cm cake tin

Bake @ 175C for 50 minutes

Take it out and cover with alfoil

Bake for another 45 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake

So all up, I baked it for 95 minutes tho the recipe says for 105 to 120 minutes.  If not done after 105 mins. turn off the oven and leave to finish in the residual heat. Surprisingly my ratty oven was a champ this time

ingredients gleaming in the sun

ready for mixing in  

all mixed and ready to go into the oven 

heading into the oven

okay you caught me out - it IS a bit burnt on the edges

Yep slightly burnt on the top and the sides but still delicious - honest!  The poppy seeds give it a great texture and a bit of crunch; the sourdough and lemon give it a fab tangy taste, and the chocolate and nuts are a nice little surprise.  Helga was a real trooper, and I am dying to try a couple of different cakes now that I know she survives anything.   

my hazelnuts doodle