Wednesday 25 July 2018

Pear And Rosemary Soda Bread

Well, I had a big birthday and I got gifts, including cookbooks, of course.  One of them was this - Australian Pears vol. 3.  Pears always seem kinda drab to me, so cooking with them seems like the right way to go.  And to be honest, somewhat to my surprise, I found some likely lads that I wanted to make.

So here we have a pear soda bread, which is a loaf with pears on top.  And nothing wrong with that!  I usually think of soda bread as a quick, easy Irish loaf, great to whiz together for afternoon tea or dinner.  This savoury loaf would go very well with a hearty bowl of soup or (Irish) stew.

crusty soda bread ready for buttering


500g. plain flour

2 tsp bicarb of soda

1 tsp sea salt

400 mLs buttermilk or yoghurt

A big pinch of saffron threads (optional)

A little milk, if needed

1-2 Beurre Bosc pears or 4 Corellas

1-2 tbs olive oil

a dash of maple syrup (optional)

2-3 sprigs rosemary (use more if you fancy; they suggest 12!)

2 tsp sea salt flakes


Stir the saffron, if using, into the buttermilk and allow to infuse

Sift the flour, bi-carb and salt into a large mixing bowl

Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, stirring as you go

Now bring it together into a soft dough - adding a bit of milk or a bit of flour if the dough is too wet or too dry

Tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute

Drop it into a lightly greased loaf pan (or use a loaf tin liner)

Slice the pears lengthwise, then in half or thirds, and put them into a bowl

Now drizzle the olive oil over, and give them a gentle toss

Cut half a dozen evenly-spaced slits in the top of the dough

Whack 2 or 3 pieces of pear into each slit

Sprinkle the maple syrup over the dough

Cast the rosemary leaves over the top

Gleefully scatter the sea salt flakes over it all

Place in a pre-heated 200C oven for about 40 minutes - you want it to sound hollow when you tap its bottom (and a skewer in the middle should come out clean)

Tip it onto a wire rack to cool, or if you prefer a soft crust, swaddle it in a tea-towel

Eat warm with butter 


The dough was incredibly sticky, and required a lot of extra flour to bring it together  

I added saffron 'cos I reckon it needed a bit of flavour

Their recipe says to use 4 Corella pears; I had Beurre Boscs which are bigger so I found that 1-2 pears were fine

I didn't have any buttermilk so I made up a batch: 1 tbs of lemon juice into one cup of milk; stir and wait.  It looks horribly curdled but that's just fine

This is a very soft dough, not like yeasted bread; more like a big scone

ingredients gathered 

add the saffron threads to the buttermilk

stir in the buttermilk

slap it into the lined/greased loaf tin

toss the pear pieces in the olive oil

ready for 40 mins. in the 200C oven

golden and ready to eat with lots of butter 

let it cool just a bit before eating

have a chunky slice with butter, my dears 

Delicious with a cup of tea, too!  Mr P. had 2 big slices.  We both had jam AND butter.  I reckon you could use other herbs, and maybe some spices and other fruit like apples.  So you can make it sweet or savoury, plain or spicy, whatever takes your fancy.  

     pear and rosemary - artwork by sherryspickings

Thursday 19 July 2018

Home-Made Lime And Ginger Cordial

It may seem like an odd time of year (i.e. deepest Winter) to make lime cordial, but we love it all year round.  And how lucky are we to have friends with a lime tree that has been fruiting abundantly of late?!  Yes, very!  Organic of course - probably 'cos they don't have the time or inclination to do anything to it, anyway:=)  I have posted a similar cordial before, but this is the Winter version with the added ginger to stave off colds and 'flu.  

getting ready to juice those luscious limes

Makes about 1 Litre (4 cups) of cordial:


500 mLs (2 cups) cold water

420g. (2 cups) white sugar

50-60g. of glacé ginger, chopped or about a 5cm. piece of fresh ginger root, chopped or coarsely grated 

500 mLs (2 cups) lime juice - you will need 8-10 limes 

and the zest of 2-3 of them


Place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan

Keep stirring it over a medium-low heat till the sugar is dissolved

Stop stirring!  And now bring it to the boil

Once it's boiling, add the ginger

Turn it down and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes - don't stir at this point!  It should be looking slightly thick and syrupy

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool completely

Strain off the ginger, add the lime juice and zest

Chill it in the fridge

Use as a cordial with sparkling water


Use the glacé ginger AND some fresh ginger for extra zing, or just heaps of the fresh stuff

this is the ginger I used for the cordial  (not an ad.)

I'm not sure what you call it really.  It's not sticky on the outside like glacé ginger, and it's very firm on the inside.  Delicious anyway.

sunny ingredients gathered

fascinating shot of water boiling:=)

another fascinating shot of syrup being strained 

adding the juice and zest

This is where I should have an enticing shot of this refreshing cordial in a glass with a straw and an umbrella - but I don't :=)  So just picture it in your heads, my friends.  

  limey artwork by sherryspickings

Friday 13 July 2018

Cooking Class, Big Birthdays And Blood

What does the average food blogger do on their birthday?  Cook of course!  My oldest (I mean most long-term) friend came up for a mutual birthday visit recently.  Where did we go?  Down to my fave part of the world - yep, you guessed it - Northern Rivers, just over the Queensland border.  And what did we do?  We went to a cooking class with the marvellous Belinda Jeffery.  She always seemed like a lovely person when she was on telly, and she is just as fabulous in person.    

this is what we cooked 

The classes are held in the Federal Hall, next to the old church, now used for occasional weddings and for the general community.  They only allow 12 weddings per year, so that it is really a communal space, rather than a commercial one.  I can proudly say that I donated a wee bit of money to help keep this Hall in the hands of the townspeople a few years ago.   

jalapeño peppers with pancetta

There were 6 of us in the class, all cooking different dishes to make up the whole menu.  Because my mate Lady M is 99% vegan, we got to make the vego dishes.  So not this one clearly:=)  This was delicious, with the salty pancetta, the soft goat's cheese and the hot chillies.

Imam Bayildi

This is eggplant stuffed with a tomato-ey, herby filling.  You slit the outer skin so it looks like pyjamas, apparently.  I have a bit of a blackout about the cooking on this day.  But I'm pretty sure Lady M did most of our share!  I know I seemed to be endlessly chopping garlic for every recipe.  And I can't remember eating this dish either.  Must have been the blood loss:=).  I bet it tasted great, though.

almond skordalia

Skordalia is a Greek dip, usually made with potato.  Here we made an almond version, which is fed with lots of olive oil so it becomes a smooth, creamy mayo consistency.  Let's be honest, Lady M made this one too.  But I chopped the garlic!

eggplant, ginger and sesame dip

This was a delicious, smoky dip that went beautifully with the focaccia.  And it looked so pretty with those blissfully blue borage flowers.

caramelised fennel tart

Fennel was in season so it starred in this tart.  Beautifully glossy fennel over a layer of buttery pastry.  And though it looks amazing, it is easy to make - the pastry is whizzed together in the processor, then the veg. is covered with it, and it all goes into the oven in the same pan.

cream poured all over the focaccia

Yep, I know it sounds weird but there was heaps of cream poured all over this beautiful focaccia dough.  It poured over the side, and seemed kinda crazy but oh my, it was soooo delicious.  And yes that's another bloody finger you can see there wrapped in band-aids.  (Not mine.) 

lovely ladies showing off their beautiful baked bread 

Belinda photo-bombed this one:=)  Glorious, fresh focaccia just out of the oven.  Crispy crust with a soft inside.  I'm not a bread lover usually, but this was delicious.

rhubarb with a hazelnut crumble

This looked very pretty in the glass, and I really enjoyed the cardamom yoghurt on top.  Rhubarb? - mmm not so sure I'm a fan, but it was beautifully fresh.

beautiful rustic table

What a lovely day in a perfect setting.  Shame about the bloody finger:)  There were 3 of us who managed to hack away at our fingers in this class.  But I was so impressed with the knife, that I ordered one when I got home.  I know, I'm just a glutton for punishment.

marvellous Mick

This is Mick, who along with Clive, Belinda's husband, help the classes run so smoothly.  I wish I had one of each of them in my kitchen:=)  Dirty dishes whisked away, everything you need laid out for you, a quick bash of the garlic cloves as they pass by...  Sorry Clive, I missed getting your photo.  

I have been to quite a few cooking classes in my time, and this was one of the best.  I loved the organisation and the calm atmosphere.  (I have been to some chaotic ones in the past, so I appreciate the difference.)  I loved that we were instructed with such kindness; and helped by the fellas with such humour and consideration.

How joyful it was to sit down at the end of the day, and eat together.  Three husbands turned up at the end, and they too were included in the fun - and given something lovely to eat!  This class is a real must if you are ever in the area, with a free day.  I've gotta get me to another session :=).

Lady M. working hard

Here she is, turning those eggplants into slitty pyjamas.  Still not sure what pyjamas have to do with stuffed eggplants, but they're meant to look like they're wearing striped pyjamas...  Yep I know, it's a mystery to me too.

many hands make light work

And just because I love this photo, I'm whacking it in at the end of this post.  You can see Belinda's hands along with a couple of the ladies ready to have a go at the dough.  It felt so wonderful under your hands - soft and springy and alive.

a parting gift - Belinda's handmade marmalade 

blood and gore and a sharp knife - artwork by sherryspickings

Friday 6 July 2018

Medieval Hummus Or Himmas Kassa

I have always loved hummus - the more garlic and lemon juice the merrier.  Oh, and lots of paprika on top.  But here we have something a bit different - no garlic at all!  And still just amazingly delicious.  This is a 14th century Arabic recipe, which I discovered on the blog by Nawal Nasrallah - In My Iraqi Kitchen.  Nawal is an independent Iraqi scholar, who loves cooking and its history and culture.  Nawal calls this the mother of all hummus.  

Chickpeas are a legume like peanuts, and there can be much discussion about whether they are actually good for you, or not.  I err on the side of yes they are bloody good for you :=)  And so delicious.  People have been eating them for at least 7500 years, so there has to be something fabulous about them. 

gloopy, green and gorgeous


1 tin (400g.) of chickpeas, drained or 1½ cups of boiled chickpeas

2 tbs tahini - I used organic roasted, unhulled

2 tbs water

2 tbs white wine vinegar

1/4 cup walnuts, finely ground

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tbs white wine vinegar

1/2 cup parsley, chopped roughly or torn

1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped roughly or torn

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp of each of the following: caraway/ground coriander/black pepper/ground ginger/cinnamon

1/2 tsp sea salt 

2-3 wedges of preserved lemon, skin only, flesh chucked :=)

For garnish:

extra virgin olive oil, a generous amount 

pistachios, chopped

parsley, chopped finely

ground cinnamon

rose petals (optional)


Zap the walnuts in your processor till you have a fine meal, or buy walnut meal if you can get it

Mix the tahini with the water and vinegar

Stir the lemon juice and the other tablespoon of vinegar in with the ground walnuts

Chuck everything into the blender except the preserved lemon (and the garnish of course)

Blitz!  Well, I mean pulse till smooth and looking fairly green

Add more herbs if it's not green enough for you 

Add more salt or pepper or lemon juice if it takes your fancy

Stir in the preserved lemon which you have chopped into small pieces

Spoon out into a nice bowl and serve with Turkish bread

Pour on the olive oil (Nawal says to use a generous amount), and throw on the garnish(es)

This should be a thick dip, great for piling onto bread

here we go, gathering ingredients

everything goes into the processor

grab that Turkish bread and slather it on, baby! 

Our vego/vegan guest loved it, and had it spread on toast each morning for breakfast.  It melded and tasted better in the days after I made it.  This is such a winner, folks!  Definitely on the permanent playlist now :=)

chickpea plant artwork by sherryspickings

Sunday 1 July 2018

In My Kitchen - July 2018

July, mmm, July - I didn't see that one coming :=)  She just snuck up and whacked me on the back of the head.  My big birthday has come and gone, just like that.  And how fabulous it was!  It lasted for weeks - lucky me.  I took a cooking class on the actual day.  It was superb, even though my friend who came with me, sliced a big flap of skin off my finger.  And let me tell you, friends - I am a bleeder and a fainter:=)  So I did the first, but luckily not the second.

So, here in my birthday kitchen:

who doesn't need a lobster ice cube tray?  We all do, you sillies:)  

Love my new ice cube tray.  Thanks, Princess Pia.  Many lobster-shaped ice cubes to come in our summer drinks at Christmas. the cookie monster would say 

Gotta love these delish biscuits - or cookies, as they insist on calling them.  Maybe 'cos cookies sounds like such a cute word.

a batch of my home made chutney 

We have a couple of English friends who adore my mango chutney, and now that I have discovered frozen mango chunks at the store, I can now make it for them any time of year!  Which I did, to their joy - she says modestly.

yes, another little jug

Well guys, you know I'm a wee bit obsessed with little jugs, so here we have another one I bought recently at an antique centre.  It says Woods Burslem 'Brier' on the bottom.  This was an English pottery company, which finally ceased trading in 1995.  I love its cute roundness - a bit like me, perhaps? :=) 

yay, I managed to get a bottle of this

Every year, I buy a bottle of this amazing oil, but I was put off this year due to the doubling of the postage to Queensland.  What the?!  Anyway, I waited and yes, finally they had a deal for free postage.  Yippee!  And yep that's my shoe in the foreground.

the Gromberry

Oh yes, I had to get the Gromberry to oversee my kitchen, along with his mate the Gruffalo Gromit already doing his thing on my kitchen shelf.  You can never have too many Gromits.

my birthday gift from our potter friend 

Brooke from Red Door Studio made me this gorgeous cake platter with a whale and the lighthouse representing my fave part of the world - Northern Rivers.  Thanks Miss B.!

bought this at the cooking class

At the end of the cooking class with Belinda Jeffery, (my fave cook/chef person) I bought this, her latest book.  Can't wait to try out some of the recipes.  Thanks for signing it, Belinda.

another cute gift

This is actually just what I was looking for.  I had been trying to find one of those Sid the Lid saucepan lifters, but hadn't got around to tracking it down.  My friend (the one who sliced my finger) brought up this gift from her folks for my birthday.  Yay!

So all up, June was a fabulous birthday month.  I have felt very loved, and looked after.  Someone said to me: 'Oh, you've been spoiled," but I don't like that expression.  I feel like it has been a wonderful showing of love and caring.  Lucky me indeed!

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Sherrys Pickings