Wednesday 25 February 2015

Broccoli, Apple and Bacon Salad

By the time you read this, we will hopefully be in Melbourne for a family wedding and an 80th birthday.  It's looking a bit dodgy at the moment, with Cyclone Marcia hanging off the coast and possibly turning into category 5.  Flights north from Brisbane have already been cancelled, and they are talking about delays to other flights.  Fingers crossed!  I have been madly chopping and juicing and grating today so I can throw things into the freezer. I don't want to come back to veggies leaking out of the crisper, and furry fruit looking like jungle escapees.  I seem to have a thing with zucchinis, where they turn to liquid and ooze out of the plastic bag before I can get around to cooking them.  Oh the horror of picking up a vegetable and having it run out of your fingers.  Well, it can't be worse than finding out you have been eating dog food!  There was once a restaurant in sunny Brisbane, which shamelessly used cans of dog food on their pasta!  My brother in law said it was the best Spag Bol he had ever had.:)  They also had posters in black and white which purported to show spaghetti growing on trees.  I think my sister was fooled for a while there.
So here is a way to use up some fresh produce so you don't come home to horrors lurking in the bottom of your fridge.   A crunchy, healthy salad with a lovely, creamy, slightly rich dressing.  I have adapted this recipe just a tiny bit from a Scrummy Lane blog post.  Thanks Helen for a great idea.


1 tbs olive oil
200g. (approx. 6 slices) of shortcut rindless bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large head of broccoli
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 green apples, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
1/3 cup toasted nuts - use your fave.  (I used pine nuts and walnuts)
100g. tasty cheese, grated
Black pepper


3/4 cup Greek yoghurt
2 tbs mayonnaise
2 tsp grain mustard
1 tbs honey


Heat up the oil and fry the bacon till cooked
Wash and shake dry the broccoli
Chop it up into bite-size pieces
Put the apple pieces into a small bowl and stir the lemon juice through
Take a large salad bowl
In goes the broccoli, followed by the bacon, onion, apples and lemon juice, Craisins, nuts, cheese and pepper
Give it all a really good mix through
Pour over the dressing which has been lightly but firmly stirred together
Now give it another really good mix
Add more pepper if desired
Serve as a side for 4-6 people, or as a main for 2-4 people
This would go nicely with chicken or fish


cooking up the bacon 

cheese beautifully grated thanks to the Microplaner

squeezing the lemon juice over the apple pieces 

adding the nuts 

bacon going into the salad bowl with the craisins, onion, apples and nuts  

my home-made grain mustard going into the yoghurt and mayo 

squeezing in the honey  

pouring the creamy dressing over the salad ingredients  

mixing it in thoroughly 

This salad gives your jaw a work-out with all that crunchy broccoli, and gives your taste buds a zing. We ate it all up before I could take a nice photo in a pretty bowl. And yes, I have to admit myself and Mr Pickings somehow managed to eat the entire bowlful ourselves!

Thursday 19 February 2015

Baked white chicken chilli

Mr Pickings was famous back in the day for his vegetarian chilli.  Based on zucchini, smothered in cheese, and served with bright yellow rice.  Or when he was feeling daring, it would be blue or green rice.  I think green rice was my fave. And sadly I cannot tell you it was all natural; oh no, it was good old fake colouring from a bottle.  Heaven knows what it did to our stomachs.  I once drank some punch at a party that had been coloured bright blue.  I swear I only had a cup and a half, but I was knocked out for the entire night and lay comatose in the driveway till the party was over.  Nobody could get me to move!  Ahem, moving on.  I have happened to chance upon a few different recipes for chicken chilli lately.  Preferring fish and chicken to red meat, this sounded ideal for dinner.  I have looked at quite a few recipes and just made up my own version finally.  I saw a couple of recipes that included cream cheese which sounds really odd. Quite a few recipes mention mashing half the beans so that it gets thicker.  I decided to do a bit of both! So in my final version I have 125 g of Philly cheese, and half a can of mashed white beans.  I think it is quite delicious, as does Mr Pickings.


2 tbs olive oil
750g. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced into 2cm pieces (approx. 3 breasts)
1 red onion, chopped
125g. red capsicum, diced
1 jalapeno chilli, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs lightly dried coriander
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs ground coriander
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne
1 tbs dried oregano
10-12 twists of black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
3/4 cup frozen corn
2 x 400g. cans of white beans - I used organic cannellini
1/2 a lime, juiced
125g. cream cheese cut into small pieces
500mls. chicken stock
extra lime and fresh coriander leaves for serving


Heat the oil in a large frypan
Add the chicken pieces and fry till opaque; this will only take a few minutes
Place the chicken into a large casserole dish/roaster with a lid
Throw the onion, capsicum, chilli and garlic into the same frypan
Stir around till softened
Then add the dried coriander, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, oregano, pepper and paprika
Stir these into the onion mixture, and cook for a few minutes
Tip this onto the chicken pieces in the dish
Add the corn and 1 + 1/2 cans of the beans
Mash the other half can of beans with a fork or masher till you have a lumpy puree
This goes into the dish too
Pour the lime juice and cut-up cream cheese over the chicken and vegetables
Pour in the chicken stock
Put the lid on, and bake for around 50-55 minutes at 190C
Add lime wedges and snipped fresh coriander to each bowl
Serve with sour cream and grated cheese if desired


chilli, onion and capsicum ready to fry 

starting to soften

spices added

chicken starting to turn opaque 

throwing in the cream cheese

spooning in the mushed beans 

pouring in the stock 

ready to eat with lime and coriander 

Ok, you caught me out there.  I in fact cooked up the onion and spices first, then the chicken.  It doesn't matter; either way is good as you can re-use the frypan.  I think this may turn out to be a firm fave of the Pickings household as it is easy and delicious.  Once everything is chopped, you just fry it up and throw it into the oven.  What could be easier?

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Paddock Espresso - cafe review

So many cafes, so little time.  Every time you look around there is another little pop-up coffee shop doing its thing.   Now here is a tiny place you probably wouldn't know exists unless you drive by it every day.  The new proprietors have done a nice spruce-up job, paving the tiny courtyard out the side, and giving it all a lick of paint, and a nice fresh feel. The front of the shop has been made elegant with shiny black tiles which set off the old fashioned facade beautifully. The other day a friend popped in, and we decided to walk down to Paddock for a chat and a coffee.  We sat outside, enjoying the balmy weather, and luckily missing the patchy rain that fell on and off.
The girls were lovely, and very helpful.  My friend Madame Yoga, who is vegetarian, asked if the ham and cheese toastie could be ham-less, and they happily replaced it with tomato.  I had a pumpkin pasta salad, which was nice and fresh (if just a tad too much pasta for this eater).  There is a cabinet with some sweet treats, wraps, fruit salad, and even a vegan slice for those who must.  And a drinks fridge with Nudie juices, waters and so on.  For such a small place, they have packed a lot in!  There is a counter bench at the front looking out to the street, where you can watch the world go by as you sip your coffee and prepare to face the hurly burly again.  This is a very pleasant spot to while away some time, and enjoy a coffee and light lunch.

cute courtyard pots 

funky clock 

drinks menu

coffee on the go 

food cabinet 

cappuccino - $3.80

pumpkin salad with fetta - $7.50 

tomato and cheese toastie - $7.50

pretty little courtyard 

looking in - love the shopfront tiles!

Paddock Espresso on Urbanspoon

Paddock Espresso
P 07 3077 6768
38 Chermside St, Grange
Hrs  M-F 6.30am to 2pm
Weekends 7am to 1pm

Thursday 12 February 2015

Chapatis the Hari Krishna Way

Orange robes, chanting, vegetarian food, tambourines?  What do they all have in common?  Yes, you guessed it!  Hari Krishnas.  Years ago when I was at university, the Hari Krishnas used to have a weekly feed up on campus.  Poor students like us could come and get a healthy vego feed for free. Naturally these were very popular sessions.  And they handed out recipe sheets so you could try making the food yourself.  I used to make these chapatis quite often in our share house, but have not made them for many a year until now!  It is a very simple recipe with few instructions, so I had to guess some of it.  I think they were interesting to make and not bad to eat, bordering on fairly delicious.  Mr Pickings liked them, but then again, he loves anything in the bread arena, whereas I am not a huge fan.  I am going to give these another go with a few extra tweaks to see if I can get them just the way I like them.  But for the first go in a very long time, they were pretty darn good.  Their recipe uses all wholemeal flour, but I think it needs to be a bit lighter. There were no quantities given for the water or butter so it was a bit experimental, but I think I have it right now.  I also added some spices for extra flavour and colour.  So going from their recipe of flour, water and a pinch of salt, I have added turmeric, chilli and coriander for a bit of a kick.


1/2 cup plain wholemeal flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3 tbs lightly dried coriander leaves (or a handful of chopped fresh)
1 tbs lightly dried chilli flakes (or 1 finely chopped chilli)
1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt flakes
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 2/3 cup luke warm water - this depends on the thirstiness of your flour
melted butter - 2 tbs approx.


Place the flours, coriander, chilli, salt and turmeric in a medium bowl
Stir them together briefly till flavourings are mixed in
Start adding the water - you want a soft but not wet dough
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes
Put aside for at least half an hour to rest
Break off small pieces of dough and roll out thinly - you want them about 12 cm diameter
Heat up a small cast-iron pan without oil
Cook the chapati on one side till you see bubbles rise
Turn over and cook for another few minutes till done
Grab it with your tongs and hold over the flame till it puffs up (you really need a gas cooktop for this)
Turn over and hold it briefly over the flame again till the other side puffs up
Brush melted butter on one side
Keep going till all the dough is cooked - I ended up with about 10 small ones

These will go nicely with a curry!


mixing in the spices

ending up with a soft but not wet dough  


rolling out the little chapatis 

giving them a bit of a stretch  

cook till the bubbles start to rise 

who doesn't like a bit of arson in the morning? :) 

puffing up 

brushing on the butter 

oops!  who took a bite out of the side? 

Being quite small, these were snapped up and devoured rather quickly by he who shall remain nameless.  I did manage to snag a couple to try - not bad!  Making these has brought back memories of my younger days, when we were all hairy, vego types.  My friends and I spent some time at the local ashram in our suburb (mostly for the food), and also down the coast at the main ashram.  Yep you guessed it!  More food, and lots of chanting.  Oh, and while I am at it, who could forget Kurma Dasa, he of the cute little smile and funny glasses?  I always wondered how he managed to cook without being able to taste the food till it was done?  Seems to be the most common mistake that all the amateur cooks make on the TV shows - not tasting the food before serving it.  Well, you can never accuse me of that!   I LOVE to taste as I go. :))

File:Krishna's combat with Indra.jpg
Krishna (wikimedia commons)

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book and a Bean Salad recipe

I love veggies, being an old - no I mean former - vegetarian.  I have never felt that veggies were an also-ran; I am happy to eat meatless meals, and save the planet a wee bit by not eating up those methane-producing cows.  This month I am joining in with other book-loving bloggers in The Cookbook Guru Book Club, where Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book is the current month's feature.  I have never read one of her books before, nor used one of her recipes, though I am aware of her and her influence on English cooking.  I am more familiar with Sophie her daughter, whom I have watched on many a TV show.

I am enjoying my read through Jane's book.  Well, how could you not when she has a fabulous sentence like this about cucumbers? - "The cucumbers of Ur-Nammu, who lived in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, refreshed him so well that he built a temple to the god Nanna."  Isn't that wonderful?  Sure there are no photos here, but I don't feel the lack of them, as I am loving her prose so much.  Okay, so her recipes are probably a little too English, a little too old-fashioned for current tastes but there is still much to like and be inspired by here.  I chose to make a salad - American Three-Bean Salad.  

Here's where you are going to laugh folks!  I misread the recipe, and ended up using about a third of the beans I should have for this dish.  Jane suggests using dried beans that you boil up before adding to the salad, though she does say you could use tinned red kidney beans as one of the 3 types.  I was making this for dinner so didn't have hours or overnight to soak beans (not that I had any dried ones in the pantry), so I decided I could get away with using canned beans.  I always have lots of chickpeas around so I grabbed those, then red kidney beans and haricot beans.  This was my downfall!  I remember saying to Mr Pickings that 100 grams of each didn't seem like a lot of beans, and I was right.   I completely forgot that 100 grams of dried beans is going to give you about 300 grams when soaked and cooked.  So yes the other ingredients were woefully out of whack.  It still tasted fine!

Here are Jane's ingredients:

100g. of dried chickpeas
100g. of dried red kidney beans
100g. dried haricot beans (aka navy beans) and/or black beans
8 tbs spring onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
5-6 tbs olive oil
parsley and chives - no set amount, just to your taste
1 tbs vinegar or lemon juice
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Jane's method:

soak the beans - Jane does not tell us for how long - clearly we are supposed to know this already
boil the chickpeas for 2 hours or till tender
boil the red kidney beans separately for 1.5 hours
boil the haricot beans for 1 hour - (throw them into the same pot as the chickpeas says Jane)
drain the beans
throw them whilst still warm into a salad bowl
mix in all the other ingredients
place in the fridge so it can chill down
throw on extra chopped herbs when serving, if desired

Well, as you know, this is not what I did!  I used tinned beans which I think is very sensible in this busy world of ours.  I realised as I was making it that there would be way too much spring onion so I only added a few tablespoons; this equated to about 5 whole ones which was still a bit too much.  And I used lime olive oil rather than plain to give it a bit of punch.

My ingredients:

100g. tinned chickpeas
100g. tinned red kidney beans
100g. tinned haricot beans
2-3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped - yes I kept the same amount of garlic!
2 tbs lime olive oil
1 tbs lime juice
parsley and chives
salt and pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar


Mix everything together in a bowl
Scatter over the herbs

You could easily double or triple this for a larger gathering.  It did me and Mr Pickings just fine as a side dish with baked chicken.  Jane says this is a most beautiful dish, the colours and shapes like a painting!

beans, glorious beans!

get snipping 

and more snipping 

pour in the oil 

stirring the beans (blame Mr Pickings for the fuzzy shot) 

delish with chicken and avocado

To be brutally honest, this was not my fave dish of all time, but I would make it again with Asian flavours.  I think it needs lashings of chilli and coriander, but then it wouldn't be an American salad would it?