Tuesday 25 February 2020

Peach, Mint and Cucumber Mocktail

Hands up those who've read any of Mark Kurlansky's books?  He is an American journalist and food historian, some of his bestsellers being Cod, Salt, and his forthcoming Salmon.  And he has also written a book called International Night, with his then-teenaged daughter Talia.  Once a week a globe was spun, a country was chosen, and they made meals from that country's cuisine together.

fruity mocktail
One of the countries they actually travelled to (to do a cooking class, no less!) was Morocco.  They stayed at La Maison Arabe (as you do), and drank delicious mocktails at the bar.  Hilariously, since I (accidentally) looked up this riad/hotel in search of a recipe for this drink, I have been bombarded with emails from Trip Advisor asking me how my planning is going for my trip to Marrakech!!  

fruity and refreshing

Rashid the bar tender there, made/makes a drink called Morojito, which consists of pineapple juice, mint syrup, lime, and ginger.  This is NOT that drink :-)  Mark and Talia mention how much she liked Rashid's mocktails, including one with peaches, cucumber, mint syrup and coconut cream.  They were the only clues I had to this drink, so here is my version of what it may taste like.  You're welcome, my friends.  (And maybe tip in a splash of vodka when nobody's looking.)

Original recipe: Sherry's Pickings

Serves 4-6


1/2 cup (125 mLs) water

1/2 cup (125g.) caster sugar

a small handful of fresh mint leaves

1/2 kilo (1.1 lb) peaches or nectarines, cut into large chunks

150g. (5.3 oz) Continental cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup (125 mLs) coconut cream

sparkling mineral water, to serve


First make the syrup by putting the water and sugar into a small saucepan on a medium-low heat.  Stir till the sugar dissolves, then let it simmer for a few minutes.  Throw in the mint leaves, and put aside to cool

Now take the peaches, and cut them into large chunks

Peel and chop the cucumber into big chunks, too

Tip the fruit (yes, cucumber is a fruit) into a large food processor or a really big, powerful blender - and whizz - a lot!  Keep whizzing and whizzing till you have a very smooth fruity purée

Now pour in 100 mLs (3.5 oz) of the mint syrup (which you have strained thru a sieve to get rid of the leaves), and all the coconut cream

Whizz again!  

Grab a large jug, pour the mixture into it, then place in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Serve by filling a glass with about 2/3 purée, and adding a really big splash (or several) of sparkling mineral water - it will fizz up most delightfully.  Lie back, and picture yourself by the pool in downtown Marrakech ...

Makes about 800 mLs/27 fl oz of purée

simmer the minty syrup for a few minutes

chop up your peaches or nectarines 

and the cucumber

whizz and whizz... till smooth and airy

all ready for the sparkling mineral water 

and drink - oops! forgot the mineral water

You probably know that peaches and nectarines are the same fruit (Prunus Persica) - except for one recessive gene which makes nectarines smooth rather than hairy.  So either fruit is good for this recipe.  Mm, perhaps a bald fruit would be better - tee hee:-)  You can keep the extra syrup in the fridge for several days, or just add it to the mineral water for a minty beverage. 

artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Riad Leila - Wikimedia Commons public domain Author Stephen Johnston

Thursday 20 February 2020

Le Feu Aspendale - Restaurant Review

Our clever and hardworking niece and nephew-in-law have recently opened a café in Melbourne. (No, this isn't it!)  So Mr P. and I headed down to check it out.  Oh, and did I mention it was their baby's (my great-niece's) second birthday?  Such a lovely day, with my aunt there too, so we had four generations, including baby Lolly's great-great aunt! 

a beachy feel with distressed timbers

Mr P. and I were staying overnight with my cousin K., who suggested we try Le Feu Aspendale, in a nearby suburb.  This restaurant is Vietnamese with French inspiration, and as it's in a bayside suburb, the decor has a beachy influence - distressed wood, seahorses, fish and anchors adorning the walls.  Service was efficient, but not overly warm.  It was a Saturday night, and they were busy (we had to go for the second sitting as the first was at 6.30pm, which was a bit early for us).  When it came time for dessert, they chivvied us along and suggested we order pronto!

fish cakes $12

We all shared the fish cakes - four pieces for $12.  They were a bit rubbery, as seems to be the norm with Asian fish cakes.  They came with a very strong fish sauce.  The menu said they were on lemongrass stalks, but it looked like sugarcane to me.  No matter, as we didn't eat the stalks of course:-)  These were pleasant enough for our starter - a bit rubbery, a bit fishy ...

grilled lemongrass chicken $25.90

We had wagyu beef curry on the table, grilled lemongrass chicken with rocket salad and plum sauce, along with lamb ribs and a glazed sticky sauce.  All of the dishes were delicious, with tender meat and flavoursome sauces.  The red chillies on the chicken gave it a shot of heat every so often, when you chowed down on a piece.  The thigh meat had great texture, and flavour; always my preferred cut.

wagyu beef curry $27.90

Mr P. assures me the wagyu was very tender and delicious, swimming in a tasty sauce with roasted pineapple and herbs.  Sorry, no photo of the lamb (it was a very fuzzy shot).  The mains came with a bowl of steamed rice topped with fried shallots.

creme caramel $10.90

After deciding to go for dessert, we chose a creme caramel for me, and fried ice cream for the other three.  Sadly, we were all a bit disappointed, and those calories could have gone to better use:-(  My creme caramel was kinda grainy, and unpleasant, though the popcorn was cute, and the sorbet was splendid.

fried ice cream $11.90

Mr P., cousin K. and friend G. all chose this dish, mostly because of the sugar cube burning in the middle.  Looked funky, but ended up being pretty ordinary.  I like the idea of having a chocolate sauce on top, though.  We declined coffees, and wandered off into the damp night ... 

good advice:-)

The Pickings' Verdict: 8/10

Food: 8/10

Value: 8/10

Service:  8/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Ph: 03 9580 5990
145 Nepean Highway, Aspendale VIC 3195

And as a parting gift, here is a snap of my niece and her daughter, my great-niece Lolly at her birthday party earlier in the day, before we hit the restaurant.  She is a sweet treat indeed:-)

cute as...

Le Feu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday 15 February 2020

Coffee And Walnut Cake - The Chelsea Way

I am nothing without my morning coffee, I have to tell you.  So a coffee cake - i.e. a cake flavoured with coffee, not just to have with coffee - is a winner for me.  And yes, I do sometimes eat cake for breakfast.  Life is short my friends, so live it up.  I have been wanting to try out this recipe from Chelsea Winter's book Homemade Happiness for ages.  So Mr P. gave me a helping hand on the weekend.  Hubby is a marvellous home cook and sous-chef, and happily did the grunt work, like buttering, flouring and lining the elephantine cake tin for me:-)  

moist and full of coffee flavour

Chelsea won the New Zealand Master chef competition in 2012, and has put out five cookbooks since then.  And managed to get divorced, find a new bloke, and have a baby in the space of about fifteen months!  Anyway, back to the cake ...  This is a big mama of a cake, and you need a biiiig cake tin.  In fact, we had to go out and buy one at the kitchen shop so I could make this.  

Serves a multitude!


for the cake:

125g. (1 cup) walnuts

500g. (3¼ cups) plain flour

3¼ tsp baking powder

250g. (8 oz) butter, at room temp.

275g. (1½ cups) brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract/paste

3 tbs instant coffee + 1 tsp caramel essence, or use 3 tbs caramel-flavoured instant coffee

2 tbs just-boiled water

125 mL (½ cup) warm milk - Mr P. microwaved it for 40 seconds

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt

for the icing:

3 tbs instant coffee + ½ tsp caramel essence OR 3 tbs caramel-flavoured instant coffee

3 tbs just-boiled water

200g. (7 oz) butter, at room temp.

555g. (3 cups) icing sugar, sifted

for the toffee nut topping: 

Chelsea says this is optional, but I reckon don't leave it out!

125g. (1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

1 tbs golden syrup

25g. (a scant 1 oz) butter

a pinch of salt


Turn your oven to 170C

Butter and flour a 25cm. (10 in.) cake tin, and line the base with baking paper

Blitz the nuts to a fine crumb in your food processor

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl

Whisk the nuts in with the flour, and set aside

Cream the butter and sugar for five minutes - I used my electric hand beaters, but a stand mixer would be perfect for this

Once the mixture is very pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla

Grab a mug, spoon in the coffee/caramel essence and mix well with the boiled water

Stir in the warm milk and baking soda; it will foam a little

Now mix everything together gently - the creamed butter and sugar, the coffee mixture, the flour and the yoghurt

Pour/spoon the batter into your beautifully prepared cake tin, and smooth the surface

Bake in the lower half of your oven for 1 hour, or till a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean - Chelsea says don't open your oven door till the hour is up!

Let the cake rest in the tin for fifteen minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cake rack till completely cold

For the icing, stir the coffee and boiled water in a mug, and let it cool to lukewarm

Grab a big mixing bowl, place the butter in it, and start beating in the icing sugar with electric beaters (or a stand mixer if you have one)

Beat for five to ten minutes - you want it really pale and smooth

Add the coffee and keep beating till well mixed; put it aside while you make the topping

For the topping, place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat for five minutes - keep an eye on it!  

Let it cool, while you slather the icing over the top and sides of the cake

Throw on the lovely nuts, and serve with coffee :-)

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days 


Get yourself a head start, and do some of the work the day before, like I did.  I read over the recipe, measured the ingredients out,  and sorted out the equipment

You can buy caramel essence in cake-decorating shops

zap those nuts, baby!

coffee, milk and baking soda fizzing up

ready for stirring

it looks lumpy but it's all okay

smoothed over and ready to bake

baked @ 170C for 1 hour

beat the icing really well

till smooth and airy

stir the topping mixture for five mins.

stir for five minutes

icing on, and nuts strewn over the top

eat up, my hearties

                  artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Saturday 8 February 2020

Eggplant Fritters AKA Camels' Balls

Back in the dark ages, in my hazy, vaguely-remembered youth, I lived with several other young persons.  We were all vegetarians at the time, so one day, friend K. and I decided to make a version of these fritters.  For some obscure reason, (perhaps because she loved all things camel) we decided to call them camels' balls.  The hero ingredient (as the cooking shows rather nauseatingly say) was eggplant.  

Whether you call them eggplants, aubergines or brinjals, these plump, purple-skinned beauties are loved in many food cultures.  And they are so cute!  You can get them egg-sized; you can get them striped or even white or yellow-skinned.  Or even pea sized.  Adorable really, and delicious.

ignore the burnt one!:-)

This is a recipe where you want a bit of time to mess around in the kitchen, so try it on a weekend.  But you can easily make the nut meal the day before.  You can also bake the eggplant, purée it, then leave in the fridge till dinner time, for the final steps.  I fried up the onion and garlic in the morning, and threw that in the processor with the baked eggplant.  The mixture will now happily sit in the fridge till dinner time.  And then I made dinner:-)


150g. (5 oz) walnuts, toasted and blitzed

around 770g. (26 oz) eggplants (I used two)

1-2 tbs EV olive oil

a few big pinches of sea salt flakes

1 large onion, chopped finely

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbs EV olive oil for frying

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sumac

1 tsp ground cummin

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 tbs tahini

a biiiig handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely

1-2 tsp lightly-dried mint + 1-2 tsp lightly-dried parsley

1 large egg

1 tbs lemon juice

extra salt and pepper - maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp of each

a big dash of sumac, if you fancy

panko breadcrumbs - I forgot to weigh them, so perhaps 120 grams?  You want just enough to thicken the mixture a little, and give the small patties/fritters/balls a crunchy coat, so use more or less as you see fit

2-3 tbs more EV olive oil, if you decide to fry your balls:-)


First toast your walnuts for 10-12 minutes at 175C, till golden and smelling delightful - keep an eye on them so they don't burn

Cool, then blitz in the food processor till you have a slightly chunky nut meal - put aside while you bake the eggplants

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, thru the middle of the stem

Lay them cut side up, on a baking paper-lined tray

Spoon a teaspoon of olive oil over each of the four halves, and a big pinch of salt on each one

Bake @ 210C for at least 50 minutes; it may take longer - you want them golden-brown on top and as tender as butter when a knife goes thru the flesh

Leave to cool completely, then scoop out the flesh into the food processor

Give it several pulses of the processor till you have a thick purée

Meanwhile, fry up the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for about 8 minutes till very soft and golden

Add the salt, pepper, and the 4 spices into the onion/garlic mix

Stir in well, and fry off for a minute or two

Let it cool, then scrape into the food processor with the eggplant and the tahini

Give everything a few pulses to combine

Spoon out the mixture into a large bowl

Now add the herbs, the egg, the lemon juice, and extra salt, pepper and sumac if you feel so inclined 

In goes the walnut meal; now stir everything together

Start throwing in small handfuls of the panko, and adjust as you go

You can now either plop tablespoon-sized amounts on a lined baking tray, and bake for about 25 minutes at 210C, OR shallow fry them in a couple of tablespoons of EV olive oil - a few minutes per side.  I tried both ways; both delicious, tho' frying always gives that little bit of extra pizzazz, don't you think?:-)

Serve with tzatziki, some chopped tomato and cucumber, and relish of your choice


I ended up with just over 500g. (17 oz) of eggplant flesh

I used organic, roasted and unhulled tahini

slice the eggplant in half, then add salt and EVOO

fry up the onion and garlic, and add the spices 

you could even bake these for a bit longer:-)

yep, I know what it looks like ... tee hee

throw everything into the bowl

ready for baking @ 210C for about 25 mins. 

fry 'em up in some EVOO if you prefer

add some tzatziki and chopped salad

artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Saturday 1 February 2020

In My Kitchen - February 2020

February came up so fast, and I know we're all in the thick of things.  I'm actually already thinking of Christmas gifts to make for this year! Yep, crazy I know.  To get us in the mood, here we have a quote from Patience Strong: In February there is everything to hope for, and nothing to regret.  I like that!  So let's get in the mood, and take a look at my kitchen goodies.  Join in, my fine foodie friends, and show us your goodies too.  Let's hear about your dishes, recipes, gadgets, meals, cookbooks, herb and veg. gardens ...

In my kitchen:

homemade organic lemon cordial

We love tangy homemade lemon cordial in this house.  Splash in some sparkling water, and you have fabulous lemonade.  Thanks to our dear friend Princess Pia, who has a tree full of lemons!

a few bits and bobs

Mr P. gave me the Italian olive oil for Christmas.  I always buy Aussie stuff, but this was a Christmas treat.  The paste and the relish are local.  In fact the famous Queen factory (the vanilla bean paste maker), is just up the hill from our house (as I think I've said before).  The relish comes from a regional area, a couple of hours away.

another book!  oh my groaning shelves

My Scottish blood is zinging here.  I love anything about the Scottish islands, and Highlands.  My great-grandfather Jock Mackay migrated to Australia early in the 20th century.  Not sure if he had been a bad boy, and had to come out, or just decided on a change of scene. :-)

a few Christmas goodies from my cousin

I still wonder about ruby chocolate.  Is it natural, or is it something they concocted in a lab somewhere?  Looks like you could have a lot of fun with that shimmer powder ...

and a Frida keep cup from Princess Pia

Regular readers will be aware of my obsession with Frida Kahlo.  And so is our mate Princess Pia (aware I mean), so she bought me this lovely keep cup for Christmas.  I was even there when she bought it, but completely forgot, so it was a huge surprise when I opened it.  Yes, my brain is draining out of my ears these days.  

more tea towels

You can never have too many tea towels.  As my overflowing linen cupboard attests.  And these are sooo cute.  Thanks cuz!

a beautiful Alice teacup and saucer, and tea towels

Oh lucky me!  Our generous friend brought back Alice goodies for me from her recent trip overseas.  She knows I love anything Alice.  And just like the saucer says: we're all mad here!

aren't these pretty?

This lovely little bowl is made from a coconut husk, as are the little spoons.  I love the tiny, sparkly bitty inserts.  So that's it for this month.  I'd better finish up while the going is good.  Come along, virtual friends, no shilly-shallying, excite me with your fascinating IMK posts.  

Roll up, roll up!  Join in, my lovelies!  I want to see all of you here for IMK!  No excuses:-)

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In My Kitchen:

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