Thursday 28 April 2016

Spoons Glorious Spoons - What Is There More Handsome? and so on...

Yep I couldn't resist a wee tribute to Oliver The Musical there.  As some fellow bloggers would know - yes I'm looking at you Tiffin Fiona - I adore wooden spoons in all their glorious forms.  When you come into my kitchen and pantry, you will be able to divine this very readily.  Long, short, round, oval, thin and fat, I have them all.  So here is a brief introduction to my collection:

glorious spoons!

On the left is my fragrant Huon pine ladle all the way from gorgeous Tasmania.  I adore Huon pine, so sweet smelling, so smooth to the touch, so ancient.  Next comes my spurtle; some of you may have seen it on an IMK post.  I think it is pine but not Huon. Perfect for porridge and sauces, and getting into the nooks and crannies of your saucepans.

In pride of place is my beautiful, handcrafted walnut spoon/ladle all the way from Colorado, USA.  The very talented Robert from KitchenCarvings hand carves all his spoons and kitchen utensils from trees that have either blown down or had to be felled due to old age.   

Then you can see my cute small-bowled spoon which came from the bloggers' conference in Canberra last October.  It comes from The Essential Ingredient, and is a handy little fella.  And on the end you can see an olive wood ladle from Israel.  Or maybe Greece.  I bought it in a deli cum kitchenware shop in Brisbane.

and more

The first 2 come from Stanthorpe, bought on one of our annual trips out there.  The first one is made from the mantelpiece of a historic home that was being demolished.  It is actually very long, perfect for stirring big pots of jam.  The second is from an old wine barrel. The black marks you can see along the handle are due to one of the local wineries having a fire.  The burnt barrels were made into spoons and other implements.   

Next we have another hand carved spoon by Robert, this time made from sugar maple. He carves them, and his wife sands and polishes them so it is a real family affair.  That is why it takes so long for them to turn up!  Then you can see a one-cup beech wood measuring spoon, which is from the Hairy Bikers' range.  Their stuff is big and robust, just like them.

lots of wee ones

I would be lying if I told you where these come from.  I haven't a clue!  They have been collected or given to me, over time.  They are all very small and just so cute.

this gives you a sense of the scale 

a rimu stirrer from New Zealand 

This is such a handy implement, made from native NZ rimu wood. We bought it on one of our trups there (that's a little joke for any non-Antipodeans reading, referring to the NZ love of mangling their vowels).  Sorry Kiwis!

another spurtle 

And last but not least is another long, heavy spoon - not sure of its provenance, and a spurtle given to me by a Scottish friend way back when.  Notice the traditional thistle on top.

Well folks, there you have a look into my crazy collection, and this is by no means all of them.  I have lots of others, made from various woods.  I forgot to show you my French beech spoon.  Ah well, another time...

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Nigella's Split Pea Soup With Chilli, Ginger And Lime

How would you best describe the recipes from Nigella's latest cookbook?  The words "virtuous" and "wholesome" spring to mind, a bit like a Swiss milkmaid.  Think rosy cheeks and shiny hair; think cowbells tinkling and shepherds yodelling down the valleys. No, hang on, that's Heidi I'm thinking of.  

So far the book is living up to its title - Simply Nigella.   The recipes (okay, I've only made 2 so far)  are simply made, and certainly have a different feel to her previous books.  She is obviously on a bit of a health kick at the moment, which is reflected in the recipes here.  I do love the way she doesn't throw it in your face that they are low-fat, vegan or whatever though.  In fact, she says she "hates the worthy association that comes with vegan cakes", for instance.  Me too!  

healthy, low-fat soup     


500g. yellow split peas

6 spring onions, thinly sliced

3 red chillies, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, grated or minced

2 litres water

2 teaspoons vegetable or chicken stock powder

5cm. piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

zest and juice of 2 limes

salt to taste

To serve - chopped coriander leaves, and/or chillies and spring onions


Place the split peas, spring onions, chillies, garlic and water into a large, heavy-based saucepan

Give it a good stir and bring it to the boil on a medium heat

Turn it down a bit once it has boiled and boil-gently not madly-for 40-60 minutes till the split peas are tender - remember to stir it every so often otherwise it may stick to the bottom of the pan

Add more water towards the end if it is too thick for your liking

Now add the stock powder, ginger, lime zest and juice, and salt

Stir it in and top with your choice of coriander leaves, spring onions and/or chillies


Nigella does not mention rinsing the split peas first; I didn't and was worried it was too cloudy but it turned out fine in the end so your choice to rinse or not to rinse

She also suggests adding the stock powder a bit at a time but I felt not only did it need all of the 2 teaspoonsful, I actually added another half spoon.  You may even want to add a bit more!

I used chicken stock powder though Miss N. suggests veggie

looking good and healthy   

into the pan -  looks like the Mexican flag :)     

grating the garlic straight into the pan  

yep looks kinda cloudy but it turns out fine       

nice and tender

grate in the zest   

toss on the coriander leaves   

my spring onion doodle

Thursday 21 April 2016

The Commercial Boutique Hotel Tenterfield NSW - Review

Mr P. and I usually head off to Stanthorpe each winter to enjoy some nice cold weather (and snow if we are really lucky).  And yes it has snowed - well, sleeted at least - while we were there.  This time we decided to head a wee bit further south over the border to Tenterfield.  I had been wanting to check out the accommodation in this boutique hotel for a while.

see those windows on the left?  that's our room   

Last winter, we had lunch there in front of the fireplace.  This time, we stayed a couple of nights in one of their charming art deco rooms.  The hotel had previously been sitting vacant for a decade, so it was a big job for this former Brisbane couple to bring it up to speed.  And what a ripper of a job they have done.  

the back entrance via the outdoor deck  

The hotel now consists of 8 rooms, a bar which serves lunch/dinner and tapas, and a restaurant serving dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.  Run by a French chef no less! The story is that the chef was moving up to Brisbane from Tamworth but his van broke down in Tenterfield and here he stayed.  Lucky for the hotel and lucky for the diners.

the bathtub in our huge bathroom   

Personally I would need a ladder to get into this tub, but I'm sure taller folks would love to climb in.  I loved the huge shower with rain shower head, and the lovely, sweet-scented and organic bath amenities (which you can purchase from the hotel if you really love them).  The basket weave tiles were a hit with both of us; Mr P. being a building designer found them particularly fascinating as we hadn't come across them before.  Oh did I mention the heated towel racks?  Fabulous on a cold morning.

yep that's me in the mirror   

Okay so I am not the tallest person in the world but I did feel this room was meant for taller folk than me.  I literally couldn't see myself in the mirror, and I would need a cherry picker to get me in the bath.  Even the wardrobe was a bit giant size and I could barely on my tippy-toes reach the hanger part inside.  I sometimes get the feeling that interior designers are 6 feet tall blokes who have no idea about the fairer sex needing a bit of leeway in the height department.:=)

that's BB my travelling bunny on the mantel  

We loved the decor, and the calm and relaxing atmosphere but there were a few quibbles.  Hubby and I both like lots of surfaces to put our stuff on when we are away. Fortunately there is a mantel which helps but we would have loved a small coffee table in front of the lounge and perhaps an arm chair.  Mr P. who is always working would love a work desk.  Free wi-fi was a real bonus though.  And please someone tell me why hotels almost never have reading lights over the bed?  Since a lot of travellers are business people, you would think a reading light was essential.   

looking out onto the balcony  

Even though the hotel is on the main highway, the rooms are very quiet as the windows are double glazed.  The curtains are thick and heavy so they shut out the light from the streetlamps and the morning sun.  Make sure you shut the bathroom door when you go to bed 'cos wow, when we opened the bathroom door in the morning, it was like a Hollywood set lit for the next scene.

how gorgeous are these railings!  Titanic here we come... 

salmon steak, polenta and a creamy dill sauce $30.50      

Here's my dinner on our first night in.  Mr P. had the chicken pot pie.  The bar has a mates' rates special for $19, which includes this one.

chicken pot pie $19   

The next night we stayed in again and had tapas at the bar.  I have a weakness for tapas, and these really fit the bill.  I could have tucked into a few more of those arancini to be honest.

arancini $12.50 

We got an extra 2 arancini which cost another $4.  They were creamy and had a lovely mushroom-y flavour.  Stuffed olives, polenta chips and scallops were followed by the special dessert of the night - French crepes.  Mine had banana and chocolate sauce while hubby had strawberry.  These were delicious!

stuffed olives $9.50   


polenta chips $11 

The polenta chips were fine but I guess I have been spoiled by the ones at Jamie Oliver's which are sprinkled with parmesan and so damn delicious.  These were a bit flat in comparison.

scallops $17.50    

I loved these!   So firm and tasty and full of flavour.  And luckily for me, hubby isn't fond of scallops so I got more.

French crepe $12

and another crepe $12  

side entrance 

One thing to remember is that they do have a ground floor room which is suitable for disabled guests, but the other rooms are upstairs without a lift.  The helpful owner carried our bags upstairs so don't let the lift-lessness put you off.  We had a fab weekend away and I would love to come back soon.

The Commercial Boutique Hotel
288 Rouse St., Tenterfield NSW
Ph: 02 6736 4870

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Nigella's Potato And Pepper Bake

Mr P. gave me Simply Nigella - the divine Miss N.'s latest cookbook for Christmas. She looks very serene and lovely on the front cover.  I guess divorce has suited her well.   And I love the colours she uses in her book - lovely pastel shades of green and pink. She is delighting in the "joyful realities of making a new home," and tells us that the colours of her kitchen (which make her smile) are reflected in the colours of this book. You go girl!

I have meandered happily through her recipes, and have found lots to try out.  So for Mr P.'s birthday dinner on the weekend, we had potato and pepper bake - capsicums to us Aussies:)  Though I fear 'peppers' will soon become the norm as our language gets swamped in the global tidal wave of Americanisms.  "Sigh."  Sorry, where was I?  Oh that's right, about to peel and dice hundreds of potatoes - well, 16 actually.  Yep I counted 'em!  Why? you may well ask - 'cos I hate peeling potatoes so I counted them down.


2 kg. waxy potatoes - I used Ruby Lou, a good versatile spud

2 x 290g. jars of chargrilled capsicums

2 x 15mls tablespoons of coriander seeds

salt and pepper to taste

100g. fetta, diced (optional)


Peel and dice the spuds; Nigella suggests you slice them into 2.5 cm rounds then quarter them - it worked!

Spill them gaily into a large roasting dish

Toss on the capsicums (and their oil) that you have cut into strips, if they weren't already like that in the jars

In go the coriander seeds and salt and pepper

Toss everything together - or get Mr P. to do it with his hands

Bake at 220C for an hour

Lob on the diced fetta


I could only find 280g. jars of capsicum; either go with this or throw in a bit extra from some brined strips like I did, that were already in my fridge

Nigella doesn't include salt and pepper but I feel salt especially is essential with spuds

The fetta was my idea and I think it gave a lovely bit of tang and interest to the dish

If you don't have a 15 mls tablespoon, just use 3 teaspoons per tablespoon instead

FYI - the roasted coriander seeds were really a delight - crunchy and tasty and added a lovely bit of texture

I had a bit of extra lime juice floating around from my salad dressing so I threw that on top of the finished dish too

This dish goes well with salad, and/or baked chicken or fish

simply Nigella indeed - only 3 ingredients   

 dice up the potatoes - or get Mr P. to do this too :=)       

snip up the bigger bits of capsicum with scissors    

throw on the coriander seeds

you guessed it - Mr P. did the tossing here  

add the fetta  

my tablespoon doodle  


Sunday 17 April 2016

A - Z Guidebook: Kaikoura New Zealand - And My Sunday Photo 17 April 2016

Mr P. and his lady friend in Kaikoura New Zealand      

Hubby and I have been to New Zealand half a dozen times over the last several years, and really love it there.  Friends from Brisbane moved to the South Island a while ago, and bought the Old Convent in Kaikoura.  This became a quirky, meandering B & B, full of charm and history.  And a restaurant, and a bar, and a chocolate shop....Here we have Mr P. with his slightly scary lady friend, enjoying the garden in the afternoon sun.

I am joining up this month with Tiffin Fiona's travel linky - we are currently up to the letter K; and My Sunday Photo.

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -


Tuesday 12 April 2016

All Together Greek Cake

Finally folks I have got around to making this cake!  I took a clipping out of a magazine some years ago, and it has been sitting in one of my cooking folders for ahem ...some time.  Finally I have made it.  Now we will see if it is as fabulous as the cooking editor claimed. 

This cake is very sweet, I warn you now.  There is sugar in it of course, plus a syrup made with sugar AND honey.  Whew!  Oh, and how about the block of butter in the cake?  Perhaps you can dance off the kilojoules Zorba style, if that is a worry to you.:=)   

a nutty, sweet treat  

A slightly adapted recipe from an old Woman's Day mag.


For cake:

3 cups semolina

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

3 eggs

250g. butter, melted

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped - or use pine nuts, almonds etc.

For syrup:

3 cups water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

a large handful of walnuts for the top


Lightly grease and line the base of a 23cm cake tin

Put all the cake ingredients except the nuts in a large mixing bowl

Whizz away for a couple of minutes with electric beaters or a big wooden spoon

Toss in the nuts and stir them into the batter

Pour the batter into the lined tin

Bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes till golden on top and a skewer in the middle comes out clean

About 10-15 minutes before the cake is cooked, make the syrup by putting everything bar the nuts into a heavy based saucepan

Bring it to the boil while stirring, till the sugar dissolves

Then let it rip for 15 minutes at a mad boil till it just starts to thicken - watch it very carefully in the last 5 minutes as it can erupt like Vesuvius over your saucepan

Pour the syrup over the slightly cooled cake and let it absorb for an hour or so

Throw your nuts over the top to decorate

Confession time:  I waited too long to make the syrup so the cake was cold when I poured it over.  So I hurriedly poked the cake with my skewer to make lots of holes for it to soak in.  And I had to stand over it and keep pouring the syrup on bit by bit.  Okay well, I still have about a cupful that just would not go into the cake.  I suggest you do what I am going to do if you have this problem - serve slices of cake with a jug of the delicious, gooey liquid.


Mr P. suggested it could be made in an even bigger cake tin so it is less dense and the syrup would go in more easily.  Obviously you have to adjust the cooking time if so; a shallower tin would take less time to bake.  I suggest using a rectangular tin like a lamington tray which is usually 30 cm x 20 cm x 3.5 cm.  Mr P. did some weird mathematical equation using Pi (not the edible kind), which somehow told him you need a tray at least this big to hold all the batter!

you guessed it - ingredients      

ready to beat  

pour in the melted butter     

the nuts go into the batter    

spoon your batter into the lined tin  (Mr P.'s wonky shot)   

honey into the syrup mix      

starting to boil like a mad thing    

Mt. Vesuvius here we come - watch it carefully    

pour on the hot syrup   

shiny, walnut-y cake  

Okay, so I liked this cake.  It has crunch with the walnuts, and nice flavours with the cinnamon and orange blossom water. But I have to tell you, I don't love this cake.  I am a "give me a bit of cake with my inch-thick icing" kind of gal.  So blame me not the cake. Mr P. thinks it's great, and I think a lot of you will too.

my honey pot doodle