Friday 26 December 2014

Cherry Relish

So have you got lots of leftovers like we do?  Ham, turkey, chicken, salads, desserts and a Heston pudding we didn't even manage to get a start on!   And mince tarts.  And nuts and chocolates by the bucketload and ... Well, you know the story.  I made cherry relish on Xmas Eve late, after rolling home somewhat the worse for wear from our neighbour's place. She is very generous with liquid refreshments, and your glass is never allowed to sit empty for more than a few seconds. (Thank you Princess Pia for a great night).  I had vague memories of what went into the relish, and as Mr Pickings and I both love tracklements, I decided to make another batch today to go with the fridge full of meats.  That is one of my fave words - tracklements. It just rolls off your tongue, doesn't it?  Like a nice chewy bit of steak. Something to relish (ha ha!), and savour.   Mmm, perhaps too much liquid refreshment?  This makes enough for 6 people, so double it for more guests.  Reduce for 5-10 minutes more if making a double quantity.


300g frozen pitted cherries - if using fresh, make sure you have 300g after pitting
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbs brown sugar
1.5-2 tbs white wine vinegar. (I used about 35 mls which is almost 2 Aussie tbs)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cinnamon depending on taste
Couple of twists of salt
6-7 twists of black pepper


Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan
Bring to the boil on a medium heat
Simmer for 15-20 minutes on a low heat, stirring every few minutes, till the liquid has reduced by half
Let it cool completely 
Mash it with a potato masher so you still have some chunky bits
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge
Will last for a few days 

Great with cold meats!

File:Turkeys (9273267091).jpg
the turkeys who survived Xmas:)  (author - grassrootsgroundswell)

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Dutch Potato Salad- minus the herring!

Many years ago, I had friends who had an open marriage.  This did not end well, as you may imagine.  While the hubby was away visiting his mother at Christmas, my friend decided to carry on an affair with a young fellow she had met recently.  It was all a bit clandestine, and somewhat embarrassing for me, as the 3 of us went off camping by a lake in one tent.  The only way they could get some alone time was to go off in a rowing boat to a little island in the middle of the lake, while I was left to twiddle my thumbs on the shore. You can imagine my embarrassment at night while they tried to keep their hands off each other.  Oh, and did I mention there was no running water or showers or toilets at this camping site?  First and only time I ended up with a very personal skin rash.  And of course, I could not answer the phone when we were at home in case hubby or his parents rang or her parents rang and I gave the game away.  So I was not allowed to answer the phone even though I knew Mr Pickings, whom I had just met a few weeks before, was going to ring me. (So I was naughty- I did answer the phone one time and yes I did manage to relay the secret assignations to her parents. Mmm did I do it on purpose?  Probably!)  Anyway, the only good thing about all this was the Christmas dinner we had with the boyfriend's family and the recipe for this salad which I came home with.   I have been making it at Christmas for years now.  I am not exactly sure who if anyone in the family actually likes to eat it but what the heck!  It is now tradition, and must be made on Christmas Eve.
I leave out the herring!


10 medium mashing potatoes
2 large eggs
2 green apples
2 small onions or 4 French shallots
250g iceberg lettuce
450g tin of beetroot
3 gherkins
12 cocktail onions
2 tbs mustard pickles
3 tbs vegetable oil- I used olive oil
2 tbs vinegar
1 cup good whole egg mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste


Peel and boil the potatoes then drain them
Allow to become cold, then mash them
Boil the eggs till hard-boiled, then peel and leave to cool; then mash them with a fork
Grate the apples
Finely chop the onions or shallots
Shred the lettuce
Roughly chop the beetroot
Finely chop the gherkins and cocktail onions
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl till nicely combined
Spoon the salad into a large serving bowl or plastic container if keeping for later
Cover the entire surface with a thin layer of mayo.  (this keeps out the air and stops it discolouring).
Garnish with extra lettuce and beetroot if desired

This will keep for a couple of days in a sealed container in the fridge.  It goes well with Christmas meats like ham and turkey.

boil and peel and mash them eggs and taters!

strong nephew mashed the bejabbers out of the taters for me:) 

more strong-arm tactics from nephew who cooks for a living   

finely chopping that onion/shallot

butcher that beetroot

give the cocktail onions a good seeing-to 

pour in the oil

add pepper

and lots of salt

whack in lots of lovely mayo

stir stir stir

smother in life-saving mayo

Have a wonderful Xmas and New Year break everyone.  Take care and see you in the New Year - virtually!!

Friday 19 December 2014

Home-made Irish Cream

I think most people will succumb to a glass or two of Bailey's or similar liquid refreshment every once in a while.  All that mellow creaminess just slides on down the throat with nary a tickle, until you end up rolling off to your bed at some ungodly hour of the night (or is that just me?).  This version is incredibly easy to put together, and somewhat cheaper than the bought stuff even if you use good Irish whiskey which I do!  I have made this with a non-Irish whiskey before but it didn't have the same pizazz.  I just think you have to have the real stuff to get this right.  And I bet Santa would love a glug of this as he goes on his merry way after sliding down your chimney (ha ha!  in Queensland?), and gets back onto the reindeer sleigh to head off to the next household.

File:Santa and his reindeer.jpg
(stock image) 

There are heaps of recipes for this online, but I add a little secret something that my Mum taught me, and I think it adds a nice little twist.  So here's to you all.  Have a great Christmas, and drink up!


250-300 mLs/8-10oz Irish whiskey - I prefer Jameson Irish Whiskey
250 mLs/8oz thickened cream
1 tin of condensed milk (395g I think they are these days)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant tsp coconut essence (the secret ingredient) or use 1 large tsp coffee powder if you prefer
2-3 large tbs chocolate syrup


Put everything into a blender and whizz till combined.  Or do as I did, put it all into a jug and whizz away with a stick blender.  This time I only got a little bit all over me!!
Drink with ice.

pouring in the whiskey

adding essences

adding chocolate syrup

and now the condensed milk 

blend away- try not to get it all over yourself:)  

give up on the blender and whisk by hand :) 

pour into little bottles so you can give some away and keep the rest for yourself!  

I cannot believe the week I have had!  I have ruined 2 library books- one with coffee, and the other with champagne going all over it.   I have had my ancient blender erupt milk all over the kitchen floor as the rubber seal seems to have melted away.  I have spilt endless things all over me and the kitchen, and then of course this morning the stick blender decided to throw this drink at me!  I am becoming terrified to touch anything liquid at the moment!  Well, here's hoping you all fare better than I did in the liquid wars.
Have a great festive season!

File:White Reindeer.jpg
(stock image)                                  

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Violet Truffles

Last year I made these for the first time, after sourcing some Violet liqueur from a local (ish) distillery.  It is not easy to get unless you buy a French one costing the earth.  I mean this one wasn't cheap but a hell of a lot cheaper than France's best.  I still have rather a lot of this left so I thought it was time to make another batch of these flower-scented little beauties.  I may be a bit odd, but I adore chocolates and sweets that reek of roses or violets or even lavender. Though lavender can be a bit too much Granny's pocket handkerchief-like.  I still remember with a shiver how when we had to kiss our Granny's cheek, it was always covered in her scented powder which left a gritty taste on the lips. Aaaagh, not pleasant.  She was one of those tough old birds who never admitted to pain or discomfort, and wouldn't let you do so either.  I guess women of that generation (who had been through the Depression and the War which followed) had to be damn tough and stoic.  They had to make do; oh how could I ever forget the chopped-up phone books in the toilet?  At least the pink ones were pretty.:)  It is an absolute miracle that the toilets didn't back up in those days due to the incredibly hard and shiny paper thrust down them.  Perhaps they did?  I guess Granny wouldn't have told us anyway. Well, enough of toilet talk.  Here is the recipe for violet truffles- a much nicer topic.


200g. of white chocolate melts or chips
60mls of creme fraiche or in a pinch,  3 tbs of sour cream and one of thickened cream.  (I have 15 ml tbs)
45mls Violet liqueur
food colouring if desired- I used Queen's natural extracts; about 10 drops of purple and 8 drops of pink
icing sugar to roll the truffles
150g of dark or milk chocolate
bling! - if you wish you can drop bling on top of the chocolate- sprinkles, cachous, edible glitter etc.


Melt the chocolate in the microwave- mine took about 80 seconds on high
Stir in the creme fraiche, then the liqueur and colouring- mix well
Whack into the fridge for several hours till firm or if in a hurry like me, into the freezer for 2-3 hours
Take out of the fridge/freezer and roll into walnut-sized balls in a bowl of icing sugar so they are well coated
Put back into the fridge till very firm and cold
Then melt the dark/milk chocolate, cool it a little, and either dip the balls into the chocolate or do as I do when the weather today is well into the 30's- spoon on a lovely little chocolate cap onto each one
Add bling!
Place into the fridge
Wrap in cellophane and tie with a ribbon for gifts

adding sour cream/creme fraiche

adding the liqueur- looks murky I know!:) 

colouring stirred in

after a couple of hours in the freezer- a very soft mixture

icing sugar

cute little cases ready for the truffle mix

rolling in icing sugar (oops I left my phone on the table)

ready for their chocolate tops

mmm- chocolate!

bling added!

wild violets (image David Anstiss)