Wednesday 29 October 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Slice- the easy way!

Okay, don't think me a lazy git, but I have made the cheat's version of apple slice today.  This is apparently an old CWA recipe that has been around the traps for decades.  Somehow I missed the memo, and only found out about it a few months ago when a friend brought it to afternoon tea.  When she told me how easy it is to make I thought I just had to try it out, but with a few tweaks.  I found a version of it in one of the primary school cookbooks I have been collecting lately so that inspired me to get a move on.  I have said before how much I love community cookbooks as they bring back happy memories of mums' and grandmums' recipes, and this book is no exception.  The instructions tend to be minimal I have noticed and you have to do a bit of guesswork most times but that is all part of the fun!  The book has ring-binding which I really love, as it makes it so easy to toss around the pages.

cute drawing too


340g of caramel mud cake packet mix
1 cup dessicated coconut
125g butter - melted
2 large pinches sea salt
550g tinned apple slices (buy the Australian ones with no sugar or additives)


300g tub of sour cream (the tub I bought was only 250g- how dare they??)
1 large egg- beaten
salted caramel sauce (optional)
pinch of sea salt


Stir together the cake mix, coconut, melted butter and sea salt in a medium mixing bowl
Press this mixture into a greased lamington tin (30cm x 20cm)
Cook for 15 minutes at 180C till golden brown
Let it cool for a few minutes
Spread the apples over the mixture in the baking tin
Mix the sour cream and beaten egg together
Plonk this over the apple
Dob on the caramel sauce if using
Scatter some sea salt over the whole thing
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until topping is set
Allow to cool and store in fridge

making the base

yep I know!  that French caramel sauce looks very dubious

it is really delicious- very sweet but so moreish

I rely on Mr Pickings to eat up all my cooking as I am on a low-fat, low-sugar eating plan (hate that word diet!).  But guess what!  He had to rush off to the dentist this morning and is unable to indulge.  Disaster!  I may have to pass it on to the neighbours -  poor things.

Monday 27 October 2014

The Bloomsbury Cookbook- book review plus recipe!

Does anyone else love Virginia Woolf?  I have long loved her work and have read everything ever published by her and about her, and about the Bloomsbury set.  So loving her and food how could I resist adding this cookbook to my evergrowing collection?  It appeals to me enormously, but honestly I think you would have to be a die-hard fan to really enjoy it. There are recipes scattered throughout, but it is mostly about the characters involved in the Bloomsbury set, with delightful artworks set amongst the pages.  These were people who lived in the Bloomsbury area of London who were heavily involved in the art and literary scene in the first half of the 20th century.  They were, to put it indelicately, in and out of each other's knickers constantly; male or female it didn't seem to matter. What an energetic bunch!  Many of them were of the upper classes and had servants so didn't actually cook themselves, but loved food and drink and parties. Vanessa Bell, the sister of Virginia Woolf, did have a cook/housekeeper who was with them for 50 years, and I have chosen one of Grace's recipes to make for this post.  It is fascinating to see how little information is given, and how much is expected of the reader/cook to fill in the gaps when making the dish.  Clearly you are expected to have a working knowledge of the kitchen already, so woe betide the novice cook if she/he is trying to cook for the household based on these scanty recipes!
Here is the recipe as given by Grace for her Algerian omelette:

oh so scanty details for this recipe!

Sorry you may need a magnifying glass to read it!  And here is my interpretation:


1 onion chopped finely
20g butter
1 tbs uncooked rice
1 cup chicken or beef stock
salt and pepper
4 large eggs
1 tbs water
extra salt and pepper
small knob of butter for frying
any leftover meat and/or vegies you have in the fridge can be added in to the rice mixture
herbs like fresh parsley or chives
tomato sauce to serve


Fry the onion in the butter till golden and smelling delicious
Add the rice, stir into the onion mixture and allow it to get beautifully coloured
Pour in the stock and add the seasoning
Cover the pan and leave for 15 minutes  (the mixture was still quite liquidy at 15 minutes so I let it cook out for a few more)
Make the omelette by whisking the eggs, adding water and seasoning
And pour into a hot pan once the knob of butter is sizzling
Cook the eggs quickly by running your spatula around the edges
Allow the eggs in the middle to run out to the edges so they cook also
Once the omelette is almost all set, add the rice mixture over it and fold
Serve with tomato sauce if desired

frying the onion, then adding the rice and stock

omelette whisking  (and I added leftover meatballs to my rice mixture!)

omelette made, filled and rolled!

I know it looks a bit brown and ikky but it was delish!

I was really pleased with how the omelette turned out, and it was delicious, but rather rich with the butter and the stock. Fresh herbs and some baby spinach leaves instead of meat would make it truly delightful I think.

the young and beautiful Virginia before madness set in
(stock image)

and just because I love this photo,
I have added in this portrait of Julia Jackson
(Virginia's mother)
 by Julia Margaret Cameron her great-aunt

Saturday 25 October 2014

Adam Liaw

Adam Liaw winner of Masterchef season 2 was in town this week.  I managed to get into one of his sessions at a wonderful independent bookshop here in Brisbane - Avid Reader.   They are very active in the literary scene having more than one published author working there plus an amazing owner Fiona who is currently a judge for The Australian/Vogel Literary Prize and The Stella Prize.  I always enjoy heading there from my side of town to bohemian West End, full of interesting shops and people.  The venue was packed as usual at one of their events (the courtyard is not huge) and crammed with happy and interesting people.  I was lucky enough to sit in the front row so I got a bird's-eye view of everything.  Adam was standing right in front of me, so I got a great close-up!  He looks and sounds exactly as he did on Masterchef and as he does on his current TV show Destination Flavour.  He was warm and funny, and told us lots of stories about his life (he spent 7 years in Japan before being inveigled into coming back to Oz for Masterchef.)  He now has a young son which he said has changed the way he thinks about food in that he is looking for more quick and easy recipes after a hard day's work.  He regaled us with interesting snippets about filming Masterchef; for example when they were given 90 seconds in the pantry it was really only 90 seconds but as the pantry was quite small and had to fit a producer and a camera man and soundman too, they had to take it in turns to go in.  He said some contestants were quite strategic and tried to be further back in the line so that they got more time waiting so they could come up with an idea for the dish they were about to create.  Very clever! He said he didn't think that way and just took his position wherever it fell.
He also gave us some insights into writing his cookbooks.  He said some cooks just allow their name to be put on a book but he definitely wants them to be his books.  He said he just keeps cooking and writes down the recipes over time; after a few months he can see a pattern emerge and he uses these as the basis for his next book.  He does not want his books to be overtly Asian he said as this may intimidate some people, so he doesn't allow the stylist to use chopsticks or anything Asian looking.  He also said that we should all aspire to be food photographers as they have the easiest job in the world.  He told us the home economist cooks, the stylist styles, and it is all done with natural lighting so the photographer just clicks the button on his computer when it is all ready.  I am sure he was joking (mostly?!) but it did sound like a breeze.
Next up he has another TV show in the offing (could be Northern Hemisphere I am thinking), and a couple of books in the works.  What a great night, and a lovely man!

Fiona introducing Adam

the man himself (about 2 feet away from me!)

his new book

I haven't tried any of his recipes yet but they did serve a couple of little dishes at the talk, and they were lovely.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Hummus - made with love and peanut butter

Well, Nigella has gazumped and pre-empted me!  There I was all ready to make this amazing hummus with peanut butter as per Jamie Oliver's suggestion the other night when lo and behold! what do I find on Facebook but a recipe from Nigella (Lawson) using peanut butter in her hummus.  I was slightly miffed! How dare she get ahead of me!  Anyways, you know I'm joking, right?:)  So here is my version of her recipe, slightly adjusted for people who are crazy about garlic.  I also halved her recipe as I was making it to try it out rather than for a big party - or just for herself.  She is fond of telling us that she eats everything up on her own!


1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic peeled but not chopped
30-40mls olive oil
3 flat tbs peanut butter- smooth, or crunchy if you like lumps - I do!
2-3 tbs lemon juice depending on your taste and the thickness of the hummus
1-2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cummin
2-3 tbs Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
extra olive oil


Drain the chickpeas
Place them in the blender with the garlic, 30 mls of the olive oil, peanut butter, lemon juice, salt and cummin
Whizz away till you have a thick globby mix in the blender
Add the yoghurt and whizz again
Add more lemon juice and/or yoghurt, salt etc till you have the taste and viscosity you like
Keep adding, tasting and testing till you love it.
Serve it with smoked paprika and extra olive oil over the top
Eat it up with pita bread or vegie sticks or by the spoon


getting ready to blitz

mostly blitzed!

all blitzed

ready for eating

chickpeas galore! (stock image)

Monday 20 October 2014

Good Food & Wine Show Brisbane

Thanks to Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef fame, I had 2 tickets for the GF&W show this past weekend in my hot little hand.   Mr Pickings had a backpack on for any purchases, so in we went.  (I was amazed at the number of people with trolleys which they obviously intended to fill with goodies.)  I was very restrained and only bought a few things so hubby was not weighed down too much.  We enjoyed seeing "celebrity chefs" do their thing on stage, and it was fun wandering around checking out all the new stuff that a dedicated foodie can buy and eat.  The most challenging item I saw was alpaca meat- I thought about it and I just could not bring myself to eat one of these cute beasties - whether it was in a meatball or a pate. So alpaca remains on my untried list (which is pretty small as I will usually try anything.)

me (sorry about the fuzz) at the farm stall buying pungent aioli

wow what a tower! and yes the dreaded alpaca meat stand

Zumbo himself/gorgeous cake/ and my fave cheese stand which I couldn't get near sadly

Bella from MKR making pasta

gorgeous Greek Goddess and Greek delights

I think a fun time was had by all!  There was heaps we didn't get around to seeing due to crowds and exhaustion, and not knowing you had to pre-book even the free shows, but it was a fun morning and the tastings were great.

Friday 17 October 2014

West African Peanut Soup

Once upon a time there was a man who ran Queensland, and who was a peanut farmer.  He knocked down many iconic and historic buildings in the dead of night, leaving big gaps to be filled by high-rise monstrosities- hmm mmm, well enough of that before I get into trouble.  Anyway, one sunny blue-sky day, Mr Pickings (before he became Mr Pickings) and I headed up and out - i.e. a bit west and a bit north- and came across the peanut farmer's property.   There were lots of peanut plants in his fields and sad to say, Mr Pickings and I were a wee bit felonious.  So some peanuts happened to leap into the back of our well-ventilated car (so well-ventilated you could see the road rush by under our feet), and came home with us to be made into a peanutty dish.  I don't cook with peanuts often - make that nearly never, but this soup is full of peanutty goodness in the form of peanut butter (or paste for all you dyed-in-the-wool Queenslanders).  I was not born and bred here so I have an excuse to forswear that nomenclature.  Yep I mean I can say peanut butter instead of peanut paste!  This soup is really creamy and nutty and so tasty that Mr Pickings just can't stop at one bowl.  Or do I mean me?  So this morning I have been happily making this soup and driving the neighbours crazy with the delicious smells wafting their way through my kitchen windows.  I will now forever have the aroma of this soup interwoven in my brain and memorybank of smells with the wonderful linseed-like tang of Tradies' Bog, while the handyman fills holes in our back deck handrails.


2 medium onions (red, white, brown-whatever you choose)
3 Aussie tbs (ie 20mls spoon) of peanut oil and/or olive oil
1 medium red capsicum
1 medium green capsicum
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of chilli paste or to taste - I used hot chilli paste and it ended up being about 4 tsps!  (We like it hot chez Pickings)
salt and pepper to taste
1 x 400g can of diced tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes chopped
1 L chicken stock
3/4 cup peanut butter
150g cooked and chopped chicken
lime wedges
roasted and chopped peanuts for garnish
chilli flakes if desired


Take a large saucepan and pour in the oil
Chop the onions and throw them into the heated oil
Leave them cooking away with a lid on the pan till they become soft and glistening- keep an eye on them so they don't burn, and stir regularly
Add the chopped capsicums and keep cooking on a low heat till they are gloriously soft and shiny
Garlic, chilli paste, salt and pepper go in next
Cook till garlic is soft
When it is all thick and reduced and golden and smelling deeevine, add the tomatoes and chicken stock
Now bring it to the boil and whisk in the peanut butter- it will be looking thick and smell so fragrant
Add the chopped chicken
Check for seasoning- add more salt and pepper if need be
Throw in some chilli flakes if you want to beef up the heat
Garnish with peanuts
Serve with crusty bread and lime wedges

frying off the onions till golden and fragrant

adding capsicum then tomatoes

whisk in peanut butter and add chicken

serve with lime wedges and garnish with chilli and peanuts

(stock image - Author Texnik)

And isn't it funny that a peanut is not a nut at all but a legume, and grows underground?  (Oops! I forgot to mention that you can find variations of this recipe on the good old interweb, but I actually have this recipe from a tatty old Gourmet Traveller magazine.)

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Preserved Oranges

I am a bit of a TV chef groupie I think.  I watch heaps of their shows, and buy way too many of their books. But I do pick up some interesting ideas for recipes, and some valuable tips here and there.  I was watching Shane Delia the other night and he mentioned that he likes to use preserved oranges in his cooking rather than preserved lemons.  This sounded really delicious to me, so I had it in the back of my mind to put some up soon.  I make preserved lemons each winter, which go so well with couscous and with fish, and in salads. I think these oranges will go really well in similar dishes, and I can hardly wait for the 4 weeks to go by till I can use them!


4 medium or 3 large oranges (around 800g.)
200g. salt
250 ml fresh lemon juice
250ml fresh orange juice
2 cinnamon sticks
a few cloves or a star anise


Wash and dry the oranges
Cut them in half and cut each half into thirds so you end up with 6 wedges per orange
Throw them into a plastic bag and freeze overnight
Next day put them in the fridge for 4 hours till partly thawed (this helps break down the fibres I am assuming)
Place the wedges into a big bowl, throw all the salt over them and stir till well-covered
Grab a 1 litre sterilised jar and stuff those wedges into the jar!
Pour over the 2 juices, and push in the cinnamon and cloves
Shake till well-combined
Put in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks before using  (this is Queensland so it goes into the fridge to mature!)

freezing wedges overnight, then gathering the other ingredients 

salting those lovely juicy orange pieces

stuffing them into the jar with lemon and orange juices, and spices

can hardly wait to try them in 4 weeks!

Oops, yes there are 2 jars here.  My big jar was obviously less than one litre so I hurriedly had to wash another small jar and stuff them into that too.  Mysteriously I had too much juice(s) left over; I just couldn't stuff one more teaspoon of juice into either jar, so I had to drink it!

Sunday 12 October 2014

My Sunday Photo/Silent Sunday 12 Oct 2014


Wednesday 8 October 2014

Egg cream- take 2

Ok readers, I decided I had to improve on that first attempt of egg cream which seemed to need some tweaking. I had left some for Mr Pickings to try later in the day and after drinking it, he said plaintively-"it wasn't what I expected".  So here is what I did the second time.
I grabbed my blender and put in half a cup of coconut milk and 4tbs of chocolate syrup.  I whizzed this up for about 30 seconds till it was frothy.
I then added a few drops of natural coconut essence to boost the flavour, and gently poured in some soda water.  It was now frothy and creamy without being heavy!  And made one delicious serving.  Yep I think I finally understand the egg cream thing.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Bounty-style egg cream drink

I was going over some old emails the other day and came across an old post by Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella, where she mentioned drinking an egg cream.  I thought this sounded a bit bizarre so clearly I needed to try it out for myself.   I checked up some recipes online and went ahead and made a Bounty-style drink- i.e. chocolate and coconut flavours.  So here it is; my version of a New York egg cream which has neither egg nor cream (those crazy New Yorkers!).


4 tbs of chocolate syrup
1/2 cup almond milk or mylk (apparently that is the trendy spelling for non-dairy milk)
4 tbs coconut milk
soda water to fill up your glass


Grab a tall glass and pour the syrup into the bottom
Add the milk and coconut milk
Stir gently till combined
Pour the soda water in slowly so it doesn't go all over your kitchen bench

You will end up with a drink that has a slightly foamy top and is very refreshing.  One of the recipes I read suggested you blend the milk and syrup first in a blender then add the soda water, which sounds like a good idea.  The amounts above are enough for 2 people to share.  I think next time I will use only coconut milk so that the coconut flavour is more pronounced.  Obviously you could try different syrups and different milks; how about salted caramel syrup?  Mmmm I have a big bottle of that in my pantry.

Oops! Didn't mean to leave the price-tag on

foamy and delish!

(stock image)