Saturday 26 October 2019

Chicken, Mushroom And Pearl Barley Soup

I can't remember how I first came upon this recipe, but it's from a blog called Scruff and Steph.  I've been meaning to make it for ages, through the Winter months, and now that it's Spring, ironically I got around to making my version of their tasty soup.  It was delicious!, and hearty.  And I used some of the bio-dynamic pearl barley I had bought in readiness early in Winter.

I had a bit of fun with this recipe, squeezing out the filling from the chicken sausage casings.  Who knew how very satisfying it could be?:-)  The meaty chunks just plopped right on out of their somewhat rude-looking casings (tee hee), ready to be browned up in the EV olive oil.  And they added a fabulous savoury taste and texture to the soup.  Mum used to make pearl barley soup all through the (long, freezing) Melbourne winter, so this reminds me happily of home and childhood.

chunky and delicious soup

Serves 4:


150g. (3/4 cup) pearl barley

400g. chicken sausages 

1 tbs EV olive oil

1-2 tbs butter

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 red chillies, finely chopped (optional)

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)

80 mLs (1/3 cup) of verjuice or white wine vinegar

380g. mushrooms

2 tbs plain flour

1 Litre (4 cups) chicken stock

250 mLs (1 cup) water

1/2 tsp sea salt 

black pepper, about 8 grinds of the mill

80 mLs (1/3 cup) of thickened cream

2-3 tbs parsley, finely chopped


Soak the barley in cold water for about 20 minutes, then rinse and drain

Squeeze chunks of the filling out of the sausage casings

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and tip in the sausage chunks

Fry for a few minutes till they start to brown up

In go the butter and the onion; fry for a few more minutes

Now pop in the chillies and garlic, and stir for a couple of minutes

Pour in the verjuice or vinegar, and give the bottom of the pan a really good stir to get up all the good bits

Then add the mushrooms, stirring for a few minutes till they start to go tender

Stir the flour in well to the pot

Add the stock, water and barley, and the salt and pepper

Bring it to the boil, then turn down to medium and let it simmer away for 30 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn't stick

Check to see if the barley is how you like it; you may want to cook for a wee bit longer if you like the barley more tender

Add the cream, adjust for seasoning, and throw in lots of parsley

Scruff and Steph suggest serving with crusty bread and grated Parmesan, tho Mr P. and I had it without either of these, and were content


Use beef sausages if you prefer, as Scruff and Steph suggest

We noticed that the barley I used was a darn sight better than the stuff you buy at the supermarket, so I suggest hunting out a really good quality one like this one from Mount Zero (nope, not a paid ad; I'm just a fan)

ingredients gathered

give everything a good stir 

ready to eat

hearty and creamy and chunky soup

artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Sunday 20 October 2019

Bacon And Thyme Scones/Loaf

I really enjoy community cookbooks, those put out by schools and local groups.  They show us how regular people (like ourselves) eat and live.  I have quite the collection of them!  It's always handy to see how real people cook, using ingredients and methods that we all can use to make life a bit easier in the kitchen.   

Here we have a recipe from The Irish CountryWomen's Association Cookbook, put together by the ladies of the Association to share dishes that are cooked in their homes.  This particular recipe is by Edward Hayden, an Irish TV chef and food writer.  I'm guessing he's not one of the women, though he probably makes it in his own home:-).

cheesy and golden, ready for slicing and loads of butter 


140g. (5 oz) bacon, diced

450g. (1 lb) plain flour

1 heaped tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cayenne or paprika

pinch of salt

85g. (3 oz) cold butter, diced

85g. (3 oz) tasty cheddar cheese, grated

2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped or herb(s) of your choice

1 large egg, lightly whisked with a fork

200 mLs (7/8 cup) buttermilk

a handful of pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and extra grated cheese to top the scones/loaf if you wish


Fry the diced bacon in a dry pan till it starts to go brown; put aside to cool

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cayenne into a large mixing bowl

Add the salt and the diced butter

Rub the butter in with your fingertips till the mixture looks like breadcrumbs

Throw in the cheese, herbs and bacon

Pour the whisked egg into the middle of your flour mixture, and blend in with a knife

Gradually mix in the buttermilk, so you end up with a soft, sticky dough

At this point, decide whether you're making a loaf, or scones like Edward does

I went for the loaf, and spooned the dough into a lined loaf tin

Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and extra cheese if using

Bake the loaf @185C for about 45 mins or till golden on top and a skewer in the middle comes out clean

If you go for the scones, roll out the dough on a lightly-floured surface, cut into 10-12 pieces and place on a greased baking tray

Sprinkle on the pepitas and cheese

Scones bake at 180C for about 25 mins. till golden brown on top

Whether loaf or scones, this is delicious with lots of salty butter spread thickly

Keep any leftovers in an air-tight container for several days

If you made a loaf, you can slice thinly and toast or grill the next day(s)


Use a mix of vintage cheddar and parmesan if you like a strong, cheesy flavour

Edward suggests mixing an egg with a bit of milk to brush the tops of the scones/loaf, but I didn't bother - it was plenty moist enough to hold the pepitas 

ingredients go into the large mixing bowl 

mix till you have a smooth, sticky dough

plop the dough into the lined loaf tin

baked @ 185C for about 45 mins.

slice thinly and slather with butter

     artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Monday 14 October 2019

James Street Grocer - Review

Mr P. is a born and bred Queenslander, and hails from Toowoomba on the Darling Downs.  This fast-growing city sits at the top of the Great Dividing Range, and sadly (and weirdly too) was severely flooded in 2011.  But now they are steaming ahead with a new airport, and a new highway bypass, and an ever-growing population.  (According to Wiki, it's the second most populous inland city in Australia - who knew?)  This means new cafés to try out too!      

fresh organic veg for sale

We headed up the range last month for the annual Carnival of Flowers, (great, though smaller than usual due to the drought) and to meet up with an Insta friend (IRL).  She booked us a table at this fairly new and very popular grocer cum café.  It used to be a fish and chippery, and a butcher shop before that, but has now been renovated and decked out so that you feel you are in someone's home.  Very warm and welcoming.

love the lights

So the four of us - Madam S, moi, Mr P. and Mr PE. met up, all ready for a rejuvenating cuppa and a sweet treat.  I dove into a cappuccino, which was frothy and strong, just how I like it.  Madam S had a latte, while Mr P. enjoyed a hot and creamy chocolate, dusted with more chocolate powder.  Sorry Mr PE, what did you have?:-)  A long black maybe...  The coffee comes from Brisbane roastery Seven Miles - their Cat's Pyjamas blend. 

strong, frothy coffee  

hot chocolate

latte (I think) tee hee

banoffee pie for me

Okay long-term readers, you may remember my many protestations about the banana and how I do not like its fibrous, slimy being.  But here we have a banoffee pie which has slices of the beastie piled into its luscious creamy and caramel-y filling.  And I loved it!  What can I say?  I am a creature of strange and conflicting habits:-)  Great pastry, great filling, yum.

Mr P. went for quiche and salad

Just to be different, hubby chose the quiche Lorraine with crumbed and fried (but cold) cauliflower with a random almond.  He really liked this dish.  Great tender pastry, tasty filling and a few greens to keep it healthy.  

house-made apple pie

This was a huge hit with Mr PE.  He loved its homely rusticity; its tender, spicy apples and short, flaky pastry.  He said it was just like (better than?) home made.  

gluten-free delights

Madam S. requires gluten-free goodies, so here she has a moistly delicious brownie and maybe a shortbread?  These went down a treat with the Madam. 

just a few of their house-made goodies

The owners pride themselves on using fresh seasonal produce, and local, ethically sourced ingredients.  They provide "sensational" catering, breakfast and lunches, and take-home dinners.  I can only confirm that we were all happy with our afternoon tea, the homely atmosphere and friendly service.  Mr P. and I will definitely make a return visit next time we head up to trendy Toowoomba, the university and Cathedral city.  

(Meals paid for by us, the  Fantastic Four - tee hee.)

95 Mary Street,
East Toowoomba QLD.  
Ph: 07 4637 9985

Open 7 days a week 8am to 4pm

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Crunchy Nut Cookies/Biscuits

Cookies or biscuits - whatever you call them, they're delicious.  This is actually a recipe for peanut cookies, but since Mr P. is not a fan of peanut butter, I used the macadamia and raw cacao butter from my pantry instead.  And they worked a treat!  So you can use whatever your fave nut butter is for this recipe.  And there's a funny debate - do you call it peanut paste or butter?  Depends where you grew up; I was brought up in Victoria where it was definitely butter, but other States call it paste - those crazy loons :-)      

crunchy and delicious

This recipe comes from The Australian Women's Weekly Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits.  The weekly (now monthly) magazine started in 1933, and is still going strong.  Their recipe books have been going strong for many decades too.  If you want a simple, easy, successful and tasty recipe for just about anything, you can't go wrong with them behind you.  I sound like an ad, don't I?  But no, I'm just a fan.

Makes about 30


3/4 cup (155g.) self-raising flour

1/4 tsp bi-carb of soda

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup (250g.) caster sugar

1/2 cup (50g.) rolled oats

1/3 cup (90g.) shredded coconut

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 cup (140g.) peanut butter or your fave nut butter

1 tbs golden syrup

2-3 tbs water (you may need a bit more)


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

Chuck in the sugar, oats, coconut and lemon zest and mix well

Rub the nut butter/paste into the floury mixture with your fingers till it looks like coarse breadcrumbs

Add the golden syrup, then the water gradually, stirring to make a soft dough - you may only need 2 tbs water but add more if needed

Tip out the mixture onto a lightly-floured surface, and knead lightly till you have a smooth dough

Wrap in clingfilm, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill

Unwrap, cut into two halves and roll out each half to 5 mm (1/4 in) thickness

Use a 6cm. (2½ in) fluted cookie cutter dipped in flour to cut out shapes

Place on lightly-greased baking trays/sheets for 8 minutes @ 180C, or till golden-brown

Let cool on the trays for a few minutes, then place on wire racks

dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl

rub the nut butter into the dry stuff

pour in the golden syrup

knead lightly into a smooth dough

cut out the shapes

place on baking tray - @180C for 8 mins.

ready to eat or dunk into a cuppa

crunchy and golden brown 

These biscuits are somewhat like Anzac biscuits, the quintessential Aussie biscuit that the Diggers (First World War soldiers) used to receive from their mums and girlfriends when fighting overseas.  Crunchy so they lasted a long time:-)  Mr P. said he loves the crunchiness of this nutty version!  I'm still testing out my new gas oven, so it's a tiny bit hit and miss at the moment.  These bikkies are just a wee bit browner than I wanted, but tasted sublime anyway.  (She says modestly :-) )

  artwork © Sherry's Pickings


Tuesday 1 October 2019

in My Kitchen - October 2019

October, October - "There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir," as William Bliss would have it.  I have to agree; I always feel like running off to distant climes in October.  Spring has sprung, flowers are rioting, birds are nesting, and the sap is rising in my mature (but zippy) blood...  Phew, getting a bit lyrical there, my friends.    Anyways on a more mundane level, here is my October kitchen.  Join in, join in, one and all; show us your kitchen/garden/literary goodies, folks :-)  

So here we have in my kitchen:

as per the label:=)

Well, you can see what this is - Dutch cocoa of the black persuasion.  I haven't opened it yet, but I believe it's very dark in colour.  Must give it a go soon.  Apparently, you have to mix it with ordinary cocoa so it doesn't overtake the flavour of your bake.

Japanese goodies

Off I went to visit the local Japanese grocery store again a while back.  I had to buy Kewpie mayo and wasabi paste naturally, but I couldn't resist a few more mystery items like the sesame seed dressing and the strangely sweet rice crackers.  And you get 19 crackers - why??  It's like Lucky Dip here!

oh yes, another book!

I can tell you nothing about this one yet, as I haven't even cracked it open.  Looks interesting though.  Fishman - great name for a memoir with recipes.

take a guess!:-)

These are from a country store down south.  I love that their products are housemade, so it's worth it to me to buy them online now and again.  Love those freckles!  And the tomato relish is a cracker.


Mr P. and I went to the Bakery Lane Bake Off recently.  We got a goodie bag each, filled with the items above.  There's only so much unicorn confetti one girl can use, so I gave most of it away.  And butter popcorn flavouring?  What on earth do you do with that? :-)  (The Queen factory is just a bit up the road from us, so I love that these are local products.)

gifted fruit from friends

Our neighbour has kindly given me some of her lemons, and a friend has handed over some more.  Along with gorgeously ripe Hass avocadoes from their neighbours' tree.  Lucky me!  I made a splendid guacamole last night with the lovely ripe, creamy, organic avoes.  Delish!  Funny how they look like they've gone off, so black and squishy but no - they are at their peak.  Just like a good passionfruit.

a new apron

And last but definitely not least is our model Ms. K (in our downstairs kitchenette), sporting an apron with quotes from our mate Mel, who runs the local cooking school Vanilla Zulu.  Mel has many an interesting cooking quote!

Well, I guess that's it for this month.  I am looking forward to your lovely posts, my friends.  Everyone around the globe is welcome!

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In My Kitchen:

Not Quite Nigella 
The Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

Good Food Week

Sherrys Pickings