Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Multi-Bean Salad - With A Mexican Twist

Yep, I'm keen on beans, and I like to add a bit of Mexican flavour to them.  Here we have a useful little side or main meal if you add a protein such as chicken to them.  This recipe is from Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe, a book about (obviously) the meals that she made in her Santa Fe, New Mexico kitchen.  The version in the book is pretty much just seasoned and dressed beans, so I decided to ramp up the flavours a bit.

Georgia (image Wikimedia Commons public domain
photo taken by her husband A. Stieglitz

This collection of recipes was put together by Robyn Lea, an Australian writer who visited New Mexico to research this book at the Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center.  She sorted through fifty of her recipe and garden books, and a boxful of handwritten recipes and clippings to find her most loved dishes.  Georgia was a keen vegetable grower, and a huge fan of local produce.  Her life was a mix of growing, cooking, art and nature, but mostly art.  (Check out her works online; there are plenty of websites that show her art.)

Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center (image Wikimedia. author:Devilstocksoup) 

Slightly adapted by Sherry:

Serves 8-10:


1/2 small red onion, finely sliced

juice of 1 lime

1/2 green or red jalapeño, finely sliced

4 x 400g. cans of beans: I used black beans, chick peas, organic cannellini and red kidney beans but use your faves

1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped

a handful of pepitas - about 30g. (1 oz.)

1 avocado, diced

a big handful of fresh coriander, chopped or torn

a big handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped or torn

1/4 cup olive oil - I used lime-pressed olive oil

2 tsp apple cider vinegar or vinegar of your choice - I used verjus

sea salt and black pepper to taste


Place the sliced onion in a small bowl and let it marinate in the lime juice for at least 30 mins. to an hour

Rinse and drain your beans very well (I like 'em cold so I put the cans in the fridge for a while)

Then grab a big salad bowl, put in all the ingredients and stir gently

Add some poached chicken breast if you want to make it a hearty main meal

ingredients gathered

marinate the onion in lime juice

let it sit for an hour

ready to toss

pour in the oil and season well

almost ready to eat

add some poached chicken breast if you fancy 

This is a very tasty and very filling meal.  And mmm you may find it a bit windy too:=)  But delicious nonetheless, and worth the wind.  Unlike Pythagoras who it is said had an aversion to beans - "they be windy...and provoke bodily lust" - I'm very happy to eat beans and risk the impure humours - and the lust!

my beany doodle

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Bakewell Pudding aka Tart

If you feel like an argument, just call this a pudding rather than a tart, or vice versa.  Apparently in Britain there are differing opinions on which it is.  I've used a recipe from Alison Uttley's book Old Farmhouse Recipes, where she says her family back in the late 19th century called it a pudding, "for the tart was really for the pudding stage of the meal."  Either name will do, 'cos it is delicious folks!

sweet and nutty - what do you mean, just like me?:) 

I think this recipe is a little unusual in that it uses puff pastry instead of shortcrust, which most recipes for this dish include.  Alison gives very few directions, including no baking temps. or what size tin to bake it in.  So I have guessed a bit, and checked out recipes on the Net, and a wee bit to my surprise it turned out - well, I have to say it again, bloody delicious!  I couldn't stop Mr P. from grabbing a slice straight out of the oven.

Serves: 12 elegant slices or 8 greedy ones


1 sheet of frozen butter puff pastry

280g. black cherry jam (or your fave)

225g. caster sugar

225g. butter, melted

225g. almond meal - organic and unblanched if possible

2-3 tsp almond extract

7 extra large or jumbo eggs - put all the yolks into a small mixing bowl, and place 2 of the egg whites into another small bowl - i.e. you will need 7 egg yolks plus 2 egg whites, whisked - for this recipe


Grab a 22cm. (9 inch) round springform tin and butter it lightly

Place the thawed puff pastry sheet into the tin and press down gently to fit it into the edges

Prick it gently all over the base then ...

Put a piece of baking paper over the pastry base and tip on pastry weights or uncooked rice

Now bake for 15 mins. at 185C, then remove the weights and the the paper and bake for a further 5 mins. till starting to go golden

Let it sit and cool while you make the filling

Melt the butter if you haven't already done so

Place the sugar, butter, almond meal and almond extract in a large mixing bowl and whisk it all in together

Whisk the egg whites firmly but don't go crazy - I used a hand whisk as they would have done in the 1890s, so the whites are frothy and whisked but not like a meringue

Whisk the egg whites gently into the almond mixture 

Now spoon the jam evenly over the pastry base 

On goes the almond mixture in an even layer

Bake at 185C for 35 mins., then turn it down to 180C, (cover with alfoil if it's getting too brown) and bake for another 8 mins. = 43 mins. all up (depending on your oven)


I divvied up the 5 extra egg whites into 2 small ziplock bags; popping them into the freezer for later use in sorbets etc.

You could use a bit more or less jam; I just happened to have a 284g. jar of jam!

Keep an eye on the tart towards the end; your oven may be slower or hotter than mine:0)

ingredients gathered - including pastry weights on the base of the tin 

pastry baked and ready for the jam and filling 

frothing up the egg whites - not too madly 

gently whisk the egg whites into the almond mixture

thick and gloopy - yum!

slather on the jam me hearties!

pour the almond filling over the jam

just out of the oven, all golden brown and sweet-smelling

yep, someone took a piece already:)

golden, crumbly and very moreish

my nutty almond doodle

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Vieille Branche - Café Review

Vieille Branche means the old branch, apparently a term of endearment, meaning old friend in French.  And it's not easy to pronounce unless you're French:=)  Hubby and I had been here before when the Winter market was on in the courtyard, but had never eaten here.  So we took the plunge, and went for lunch recently.  We headed into the old industrial interior which has been turned into an eclectic mix of old wares and books, hanging down and climbing up the walls.

interior of the old industrial space

Okay, I'll get down to it right away. Mr P. and I were somewhat disappointed.  Although it is a lovely space with lots of interesting things to peruse (including all the old books we were sitting next to), we felt a bit left out.  The staff were off-hand, including the young lady at the front who waved a vague hand to a table which had a Reserved sign on it already.  So we didn't sit there!  Our order of frîtes did not arrive, so I had to hunt them up.  In fact, the young man didn't seem to know what frîtes were, or maybe it was our terrible French accent?  Then I had to hunt up the herbed mayo which was supposed to come with.  Not a good start folks.   

duck tartine $24 - it looks bigger than it was:) 

I chose a duck tartine, which as you may know, is an open-faced sandwich.  No surprises there, but for $24 I expected something pretty whizz-bang.  It ended up being a slice of bread which was near impossible to get into (frankly I would have needed a buzz-saw to access it) with a few thin slices of duck.  I would've needed tweezers to pick out the slivers of fig, and a microscope for the wee dots of blue cheese.  And of course, you get loads of (way too many) bitter greens to fill in the blank spots.  Not happy Jan (as the old commercial goes.)  Oh, but the incredibly fresh walnuts were fabulously crunchy. 

mushroom tartine $21.50

Mr P. chose the champignons (aka mushroom) tartine with prosciutto and pecorino.  Strangely the photo looks like blue cheese but it wasn't:)  He mentioned that he thought the mushies would be warm; they weren't, so that was a bit odd to him.  Not sure I would necessarily expect a warm topping on a sandwich, but that's Mr P. for you.  The prosciutto was lovely, full of flavour and an elegant sufficiency.  And I reckon he had a lot less of those nasty greens than I did:=)   

frîtes with herbed mayo $6

Okay, so finally the frîtes came out, and finally we got the mayo.  What can I say?  They were fries, and they were fine, if a little lukewarm.  And what's with the no-salt regime lately?  Suddenly, fries are coming out here, there and everwhere sadly salt-free!

sparkling blood orange with chilli $4

I really enjoyed this drink. I love a bit of chilli, and this had a lovely little hit of it. The waiter made sure I knew there was some chilli, as I don't think the menu mentioned that. So good work there, monsieur waiter. Mr P. had a vanilla milkshake $7.50. Sorry, no photo, but he reminded me it came in "one of those glass jars."  How was it, I asked him?  Standard, and okay, was his reply.  So there you have it.  

a kayak frame hanging from the ceiling  

Love all the diverse, and fascinating bits and bobs all over the place.  Gives you plenty to check out while waiting for your meals to arrive.

The Pickings' Verdict:  intriguing place to hang out, food overpriced in my opinion, and service a bit on the vague side, but I would like to go back just to try more things and see if I can catch the staff on a better day.

Vieille Branche is licensed, and open Tues to Fri 7.30am - 2.30pm; Sat 7.30am - 1.30pm
Sun 1pm - 6pm with Live Music

And they do weddings!

Ph: 07 3862 1840
10 Fox St., Albion Q 4010

Vieille Branche Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Pastitso - Baked Pasta With Beef And Cream Sauce

I think most people love pasta.  I eat it, and I don't mind it, but it would never be my first choice for a meal.  I know, I know, weird you say, especially as I've made a pasta dish here.  But this was an old fave of ours from our younger days, when we lived in share houses with lots of hungry people.  So it's an oldie but a goodie.  Something to put together on a quiet Sunday when you have a bit of spare time.  'Cos it does take a bit of time, but it's worth it, and it's very easy to make.

I have adapted this recipe slightly from that of Tess Mallos in her book The Complete Middle East Cookbook, a very well-thumbed and loved cookbook in our house.  So many wonderful recipes to be tried out, and devoured.  

just about to have dinner:=)

There are 3 parts to this dish; you can make the meat sauce much earlier in the day and leave it sit till you feel the need to get dinner together.  Tess suggests cooking the pasta up first, and then making the meat sauce, but I think it's best the other way around.  I didn't like the idea of the macaroni getting all gluggy for ages while the meat sauce cooked and cooled a bit.

Serves 6-8: (maybe less in our greedy household)


meat sauce: 

2 tbs (40g.) butter

1 tbs (20 mLs) olive oil

1 large brown onion, chopped

1/2 small carrot, diced or grated

2-3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped

750g. beef mince

60g. tomato paste

125 mLs (1/2 cup) red or white wine

125 mLs (1/2 cup) stock - I used my own homemade chicken

2 tbs parsley, chopped or 1-2 tbs dried oregano

1/2 tsp sugar

salt and pepper to taste - I used about 1 tsp salt, and lots of pepper

Macaroni layer:

375g. macaroni - I used Liscio Piccolo 40

4 tbs (80g.) butter  

125g. parmesan, grated - half for this layer; half for the top

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Cream Sauce:

80g. butter

60g. plain flour

750 mLs (3 cups) milk

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste 

1 egg, lightly beaten


For the meat sauce:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and add the oil

Tip in the onion and carrot, and stir for a few minutes

Add the garlic and stir it in

Up the heat and add the beef mince, stirring in well

Once the meat is starting to brown, throw in the tomato paste, wine, stock, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper

Give it all a good stir and let it simmer away for 30 mins., covered

Then put it aside while you make the macaroni and the cream sauce

For the Macaroni:

Boil the pasta in salted water till al dente - mine took 10-12 mins.

Drain, and tip the macaroni back into the pan

Keep the pan on a very low heat; add the butter and stir it in

Add half the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper

Stir it together well and allow to cool down

Pour in the beaten eggs, stir in well and set aside while you make the cream sauce

For the Cream Sauce:

Melt the butter and stir in the flour

Cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes till it starts to sizzle around the edges

Add all the milk at once and stir well

Bring it to the boil, stirring constantly

Boil gently for a couple of minutes

Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper

Cool for a few minutes before stirring in the beaten egg

Now stir 125 mLs (half a cup) of the cream sauce into the meat sauce

Grab yourself a very large baking dish or casserole dish - I used my enamel roaster of 30cm. which has a depth of about 7cm.  Tess suggests using an oven dish 33 x 23 x 8cm.

Butter it well, and spoon half the macaroni into the bottom

Now add all the meat sauce, then the rest of the macaroni on top

Pour the cream sauce evenly over the layers, making sure the macaroni is completely covered

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese evenly over the dish

Bake at 185C for 40-50 mins till golden on top and sizzling around the edges

Let it stand for 10 mins. then serve with a green salad

ingredients gathered

get Mr P. to stir the beef in

throw in all the other ingredients

put the butter in with the cooked, drained pasta 

stir the beaten egg into the white sauce 

pour half a cup of the cream sauce into the beef sauce

pour the luscious sauce over the macaroni

cheese scattered over; ready for baking at 185C for 40-50 mins.

ready for eating!

a fabulous recipe collection 

I have used and loved this cookbook for years.  It's arranged by country; with many terrific recipes, clearly written out and illustrated.  Tess wrote a number of cookbooks centring on Middle Eastern and Greek cooking.  This one was first published in 1979, with reprints regularly.  The recipes have the ingredients listed in order of use, and the steps are numbered to make it very easy to follow.  Hail Tess, who sadly passed away in 2012.

my nutmeg doodle  

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

In My Kitchen - November 2017

La La La... No, you can't sneak up on me, Christmas.  I have you firmly in my sights.  My Xmas list is already printed and ready to go.  Summer storms have already started, with huge hail out west, and 13 cyclones expected.  We may be in for a bumpy ride, my friends.  But not here in IMK land, where all is serene...sorry I think I nodded off there for a bit.  So please do join in with us again this month, displaying all your new kitchen (and other) goodies.  

Here are the options again to add your post:

1. Adding via the link button at the bottom of this post.  Instructions can be found on the sidebar of this page, under Add your IMK link
2. Comment on this post, providing a link to your post so I can add it to the linky list below
3. Email me: sherrym1au@gmail.com, with your link or any queries about the link process)

I'll start!  Here in my kitchen:

resin spoon from Dinosaur Designs

I just love my new resin spoon.  Not cheap but so beautiful.  It will look lovely serving up my salads and vegetables this summer.  If only I could afford one of their salad bowls.  Mr P.!  Christmas present?! :=)

a Food Harvest map

Not exactly in my kitchen, but appropriate nonetheless.  This is a Food Harvest Map, showing places you can pick produce that grows wild around Brisbane.  I was absolutely fascinated to see that someone has gone to the trouble of doing this.  Selfishly, I see that my fave secret cache of mulberries is not on the map - yet!  Not that there were any this year; not a one.  Why?! 

non-bleached baking paper

You may think this odd, but I have been searching for unbleached baking paper for yonks.  I emailed the Glad company, who were completely uninterested and just replied that it wasn't one of their products.  Grr!  But I found that a local appliance retailer near us now sells all sorts of brown baking paper and liners.  Yay!

a Magritte melamine plate

I bought this at the Art Gallery recently.  I just love the colours, and the shape of the apple.  It looks irresistible; like you just have to have a big bite.  The Belgian painter Magritte was a surrealist artist, and apparently a big influence on Pop art.

jaboticaba fruit just starting to appear

We are lucky enough to have this jaboticaba tree growing in our backyard.  Not likely to have grown there by accident so I guess the previous owners planted it out.  It is from South America, and has the unusual habit of fruiting directly onto the trunk of the tree.  Hopefully we will have a good crop this year and I can try to make jam again.  It often turns out like rubber, due to the high level of pectin in the dark skin.  Like something that you can use for playing tennis:=)

another 'local' olive oil

This oil is from Jugiong, New South Wales.  I like to buy produce from the Long Track Pantry now and then, as they make their own preserves in-house.

relish and preserved lemons

Fabulous red onion relish and preserved lemons.  You know how when you buy preserved lemons - say from Italy - they are so overdone, and obviously sitting around for so long, that they have turned to mush?  Well these are NOT like that.  They are fresh and tangy.  Perfect with fish and salads and couscous.

Well there you have it, my friends.  Another monthly IMK wrap-up.  Looking forward to seeing yours too.  I've extended the deadline for an extra 15 hours to give overseas bloggers a bit more time to get their post in!   


    An InLinkz Link-up

Sherrys Pickings

Friday, 27 October 2017

How To Puff Your Seeds And Toast Your Nuts

the guilty suspects

Quinoa is quite the trendy little seed these days, isn't she?  Known by the Peruvians for a few thousand years, we are just catching up to her versatility and good-for-you-ness.  (That other trendy item- kale - remains no friend of mine - tee hee.)  So I made quinoa/cacao nib bars the other day.  The recipe called for puffed quinoa, which wasn't easy to find.  I didn't fancy an extra trip to the local Health store to get it, so I decided to make my own.  And the saga began...

I checked up some recipes on the Net; some said to wash and dry it before popping it; some said to dry it for half an hour, or an hour, or overnight.  Some said don't bother to wash it at all.  I went with not washing it.  I grabbed a small pan, threw in a bit of oil, let it get hot then tipped in the Peruvian quinoa I had bought at the Bulk Store (along with other items of interest.)

popping my quinoa in a hot pan

Nothing seemed to happen; it got oilier, and darker, and started to burn.  But yes it made popping sounds and jumped about.  Still the same tiny grains, just browner, and crunchier.  I was about to throw it out when I read up that puffed quinoa DIDN'T puff up like popcorn or get any bigger.  What?!  So I kept it and used it in the bars.  Seemed okay, if a bit crunchy.

rinse the quinoa 

drying out the quinoa on a lined tray before going in the oven  

after drying in the oven, throw the quinoa into a hot pan with a tiny bit of oil

Next day, I thought okay, I'll do the whole washing and drying thing.  So I rinsed it under the tap, laid it out on a lined baking tray, and left it for half an hour to dry.  A new bit of paper, more drying time then into the lowest oven I could get = 120C for 15 minutes.  Now into the hot pan with 1/4 tsp of veggie oil.  Same thing: a tiny bit of popping, no puffing, going dark and brown.  And burns easily so watch out.  Verdict?:  either buy it or use something else!

Now for toasting your nuts.  This can depend on your oven, but basically I toasted brazil nuts @ 170C for 10 minutes.  Put them in a single layer on an unlined baking tray, and into the oven.  They will start to look golden and smell toasted.

golden nuts

The pepitas went in @160C for 10-15 minutes (mine took 14mins.)  On an unlined tray, and into the oven.  They start to get golden edges, and look crisp.  And taste delicious.

crunchy pepitas

And my last tip for the day: chop up those prunes with scissors and a rubber glove if you don't want to get covered in gooey, sticky stuff.

very sticky so use scissors and a glove  

quinoa farmer and his crop on Lake Titicaca 

                   (image: Wikimedia: author Michael Hermann; crops of the future.org)