Friday 28 March 2014

Roast tomato soup

The EWN (early warning network) put out a warning notice about heavy rain and flash flooding yesterday.  And yes it rained and flooded!  And it looks like a lot more is to come by that grey cloud out the window.
There's not a lot you can do with a day like this, and I remembered that there was not just one but 2 bags of tomatoes in the downstairs fridge that needed using up soon.  I do my grocery shopping online, and I had somewhat amusingly managed to buy 2 bags rather than just 2 tomatoes for Mr Picking's lunchtime sangers (sandwiches to those of you not in the know).
Soup seems perfect on a rainy day, and it meant I would use up those pesky extra fruits.  Roasting them with the other vegies (oops, now I am calling them vegies) before making it all into a soup gives it a wonderful rich and sweet flavour.  But I still have some tomatoes left over, so who knows what comes next?!


1.5 kg tomatoes- chopped into chunks-no need to skin them
2 medium red onions- roughly chopped into wedges
4 cloves garlic
2-3 small red chillies - I used 4 and wow was it hot!  (Mr Pickings likes it like that)
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs vinegar- I used caramelised strawberry balsamic because I had it in the pantry but use whatever you fancy
2-3 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt flakes
pepper to taste
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp chopped ginger
1.25L of chicken stock
fresh coriander leaves


Simply throw tomatoes, onions, garlic and chillies into a roasting pan, then the sugar, vinegar, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper get scattered over and then you toss it all together
Roast for about an hour at 175C till it smells delicious, and the tomatoes etc look softened and toasty at the edges.  
Grab a big saucepan and heat up the olive oil
place your tomatoey mixture into the pan with the ginger and stock (and extra salt and pepper if you wish)
simmer gently for half an hour, cool a little, then blitz for a few minutes with a handheld stick blender.  This saves you having to take it out of the pan, whizz in a blender then put back in the saucepan.  Warm it up again if you wish.
Serve with fresh coriander leaves and a dollop of sour cream-- very warming!

the ingredients

all chopped up and nowhere to go- except in the pan

chicken stock- luckily I had a bit of home made in the fridge

about to simmer for half an hour

all souped up!

yum- ready to eat

Saturday 22 March 2014

Nectarine chutney

Mr. Pickings and I love a good road-trip, especially to one of our fave spots- northern NSW.
Byron Bay hinterland (photo from
We steer clear of the heavily-touristed and expensive parts like Byron Bay, and head for them thar hills!  Or Ballina--which is right on the river and also very close to the sea so that you can encounter sea-turtles and dolphins in the river, and in the season, whales just past the breakwaters.  We once had the pleasure of seeing a dolphin leaping around in front of us right next to the riverbank, only a metre away.  I think my favourite would have to be the sea-turtles; they are slow and ponderous and just lovely to watch.  (And also in danger from speedboats, plastic rubbish and discarded fishing lines).

beautiful sea turtle (image from

It is also a foodies' paradise down there with coffee and macadamia plantations, farmers' markets,  a well-known cookie company and lots of great little cafes serving local and often organic foods.
I have an old clipping from a magazine with a recipe for Byron Bay nectarine chutney, and once a year when the fruit is plentiful, I get cracking and make a big batch.  There are lots of chutney recipes on the Net so you can try all sorts of variations accordingly.  But here is the one I have used with a few of my own little changes.


1 kg nectarines- chopped into small chunks
2 onions finely chopped
500g sultanas or raisins- I like sultanas!
150g glace ginger
850g-1kg sugar- depends how sweet you like it
3-4 small red chillies chopped finely
4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
700ml vinegar- I like to use a mix of white wine, sherry and whatever other vinegar I have in the pantry
1-2 tsp salt-  I had used 1 tsp but found it needed more


Shove everything into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and mix it all up together
bring to the boil, then simmer with frequent stirring to prevent sticking for anything from 1.5 hours to 3 hours
then bottle in sterilised jars and whack in the fridge for up to a year.  I know it sounds scary to cook for so long but you can do lots of other things in between and just give it a stir every so often.  I think it may have been that my nectarines were very unripe- more like apples-that it took so long to thicken.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that I didn't turn the stove-top high enough so that it wasn't particularly hot even after an hour.  So learn from my mistakes- make sure the heat is high enough and try to get ripe fruit.  The recipe says it should only take an hour and a half, and I have made it in that time before!

beautiful fruit ready for the chop
everything chopped and ready for the pan

ok here we go- 3 hours of simmering to come
see my beautiful wooden stirring spoon-it came from the mantelpiece of an old homestead in Tenterfield

looking thick after a couple of hours

ladle the chutney into a Pyrex jug so you can easily pour it into the jars

the end result!  lots of lovely jars of chutney to see you through till next stone fruit season-unless you eat it all first...

Thursday 13 March 2014

Finger lime curd

Our friend the potter lives in the northern NSW hinterland, home of the native finger lime.  She recently came for a visit bearing lovely gifts, including coffee from their farm, wild lemons, finger limes - oh and a beautiful handmade bowl fresh out of the kiln.  (see her gorgeous stuff here).  We used some of the beautiful and colourful tiny pearls on a smoked salmon salad, and I found a recipe for finger lime curd as we still had quite a few in the fruit bowl, and I wanted to make something delicious with them.
The secret with this curd is to make it, let it cool and then add the gorgeous limey many coloured little bombs of flavour so they burst in your mouth when you eat it.
You can find the recipe from the blog I found here.  I have rewritten the measurements for Aussie standards.


200 grams sugar- I used caster sugar
60g of butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp finger lime zest
100mls lime juice from regular limes - I had 2 juicy limes so this made up 100mls but it could take 3-4 depending
1/4 cup finger lime caviar- I used 9-10 finger limes

grate 1 teaspoon zest from the finger limes;  I grated 9 of them to make a scant teaspoon as the skin is so fine
whisk the sugar, eggs, zest and lime juice in a medium saucepan then cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.  I found it went very thick in about 5 minutes, but I kept on for the whole 20 minutes
You then stir in the butter off the heat and place into a glass bowl.  Cover the curd with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface and whack in the fridge for an hour till it is cool.
Then stir the caviar in gently and bottle into sterilised jar (s).

ingredients out and finger limes zested

whisked in the pan

butter added in

curd all cooked up and about to go in the fridge for an hour to cool

cling wrap on the surface to keep out the wrinkles

 finger lime pearls-love the colours! each one is a surprise; some are orange some pink some yellow some green

stirring in the caviar

and a friend gave me a finger lime tree!  lucky me!

Saturday 8 March 2014

Choc/bacon brownies

I have often wondered about cannibals.  These days there are lots of theories that there have never been, or rarely been any peoples who indulged in a little fricasseed human flesh.  I think there must have been a little of it going on, else why would we have the term "long pig" for human hotpots?
Perhaps I am weird (hubby would say definitely);  I adore bacon as do most people (even the occasional dedicated vegetarian?) but I cannot stomach pork. The flesh just seems so dense and pink, and reminds me of a good chunk of my own arm or leg.  And I just can't stop thinking of "long pig".
But aaah bacon!  Who can resist its siren call?  It is very popular lately in all sorts of sweet and savoury recipes, and of course sweet with savoury.  I first tried this flavoursome combo when I made Lorraine's (from her Not Quite Nigella blog) bacon and maple syrup ice cream.  There is something about bacon and maple syrup that those clever Americans have right!  I remember we once had a most fabulous breakfast in Yosemite National Park; the restaurant of the Wawona lodge in which we stayed included lots of the above. This was especially welcome after having had no dinner the night before, as you had to wear evening dress to get in the one and only eating establishment, and we just happened to have forgotten the tux and ball gown!
I recently came across Nigella's choc/bacon brownie recipe on the Net and had planned to make them until I read a post from the blog Realfoodgirlunmodified.  She was very scathing of this recipe, so I thought I would hunt around for something else.  I found a recipe in my cookbook collection- from The Age Epicure chocolate book, which I used as a basis for my own recipe.  So here is my version of this slightly chewy, sweet and savoury delight.


125g rindless, good quality bacon
2 tbs maple syrup
300g dark chocolate
115g butter
150g caster sugar (I may try brown sugar next time as most brownie recipes call for that)
3 eggs beaten
1 cup plain flour
30g dark cocoa
1 tsp bicarb soda
100g white chocolate-chopped
100g nuts- try your fave- I used a mix of hazel, walnut and pecan


(Prepare your baking tray by lightly greasing and lining with baking paper.  I used a foil, throwaway baking dish 30cm x 20cm.)

Place the bacon on a lined baking tray with the maple syrup.  Put in a low to medium oven-around 170C-and bake for 10 minutes.  Then throw on the syrup and place back in the oven for 10 minutes.  Bring it out, turn over the bacon and bake for another 10 minutes.  Let it cool, then cut up or snip up with kitchen scissors, into very small pieces.
Melt the dark chocolate, butter and sugar together- I did this in a Pyrex jug in the microwave for about 70-80 seconds (it depends on the wattage of your microwave)
Transfer this mixture into a large bowl, then stir in the eggs
Then sift over the flour, cocoa and bicarb and mix well
Add the white choc bits and nuts and mix it all till you get a shiny, lumpy bowlful of delicious batter
Bake this for 20 minutes- no more!- at 180C.  You want it to still be a bit gooey in the middle.
Cool and cut into squares.

love my cow butter dish!

bacon and syrup ready for the oven

bacon out of the oven-ready to be snipped up

all the ingredients ready to go!

chocolate butter and sugar melted together in the microwave

dry ingredients sifted over the bowl of wet ingredients

batter about to go in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes

mysteriously, unexpected visitors kept dropping in to try it out

who could resist that corner?