February 17th, 2014

Dhansak dhal


For the first time in my life, I now own a coffee grinder which can also grind spices. After coming across this recipe for Dhansak dhal I was really curious to try out making my own spice mixes. Dhansak is a traditional Parsi recipe – kind of a mix of Indian and Persian cuisine it seems – a spicy Dahl with blended vegetables and pieces of meat. I never really liked Dahl as a kid, but I was willing to give this one a try, as the spice mix sounded intriguing.


I didn’t have all the ingredients necessary for the spice mix, most notably star anise and black cardamom (which I’ve since found and will use next time I make the spice mix). This was my first time using fenugreek seeds (which are basically impossible to use without a spice grinder), and they give a unique, slightly sweet flavour (they smell almost like maple syrup). The smell in the kitchen reminded me very much of the restaurants from when I travelled in India a few years ago.


Once the spices are ground, you cook them up with jaggery (I used thai palm sugar), vinegar, and something sour (I used lime juice) to make the curry ‘base’, to which you add the meat (I used chicken).


Separately, you cook a Dahl using lentils, a mix of vegetables, stock, and turmeric in a pressure cooker. I used zucchini and carrot instead of the potato and squash in the recipe. You then blend the cooked lentils to make a thick sauce…


… and then mix the cooked curry base and the Dahl together to make the final dish. It makes for a very thick, rich curry gravy. The taste is unique (well, it was to me anyway) — it had an incredible depth of flavour compared to any other curry I’ve ever made.



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February 16th, 2014

Fresh basil pesto


Somehow, never in my life, in all my years of cooking pasta, I’ve never made fresh basil pesto before. Until now, that is.

The major impetus for this is the fact that I’m finally living in a place where we are able to grow enough basil to get truly fresh basil from the garden, along with home-grown garlic!


We often eat pasta with pesto, but pasta with fresh pesto is so much better, and hardly takes any extra time if you have ingredients handy. I used this recipe from two greedy italians.


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February 3rd, 2014

Home cured bacon

Ba 3

This was an interesting one… much easier than I thought it would be.

Ba 1

I used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe from here. You just take a pork belly, rub it with a dry cure mix (mostly salt and sugar), and leave it in the fridge for 7 days. You need a little nitrite salt in the mix to prevent botulism, which I got from here.

Ba 2

Then you rinse the cure off, and cook it in a very low oven until the internal temperature is high enough to kill any bugs. The cure and drying reduces the weight a fair amount, I ended up with about a kilo of bacon from a 2.2kg piece of pork belly. Once it’s cool you can remove the skin and slice it as thick or thin as you like.

Ba 4

It’s bacon! But it’s a bit… different. It’s far ‘meatier’ tasting than other bacon that I’ve had, and goes much crispier than the bacon you tend to get in Australia – it reminded me more of the bacon I had travelling in Canada. I think it’s something to do with the dry-cure method (vs a wet cure method that Australian butchers use), but that’s only a guess with no factual basis.

Ba 5

It’s way more bacon than I would every buy, but bacon freezes really well, so I just sliced it up and layered between sheets of baking paper in freezer bags.

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February 1st, 2014

Sausages and potatoes on a campfire


One of the best possible things to eat while camping. The smokey meat and the crunch of the potato skin (with its soft, almost mashed interior) is wonderful. Cold butter and tomato sauce are essential.

The sausages were a bit fancy for camping: pork and fennel ones from K&B in Healesville, we bought them on the way up to the Cathedral Range state park.


Here I am, watching things cook. The potatoes were just wrapped in foil and buried in the coals for around an hour, the sausages took about 15 minutes on a hot part of the fire.


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December 2nd, 2013

Salmon in chirimea sauce


Another recipe from Jerusalem. I think after Nigel Slater’s Appetite it is now the cookbook that I’ve cooked the most recipes from.  It seems to be one of those cookbooks where everything turns out exactly like the picture.


This was a really interesting dish. The sauce is quite spicy but subtle, and it includes roasted and ground caraway seed which gives it a really unusual flavour. Great with challah.

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December 2nd, 2013



Well, this one was fun. Challah and fried fish was a regular friday night meal for us as kids. Mum used to go shopping at the Preston market on friday and buy butter-fish and challah, and would fry the fish in a pan with a coating of flour. Kate had never eaten challah, and I had never made it, so I figured it was worth a go.


Challah is a basic yeast bread dough, but with eggs and sugar added. A bit like a savoury brioche. I used a Claudia Roden recipe, which wasn’t quite as eggy as I remember, and was a little dryer. It was still pretty good though, and fun to make.


And it certainly looked right!


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November 15th, 2013

Spice cookies


Another one from the ‘Jerusalem‘ cookbook. They were very cute, and quite soft, like little chocolatey Christmas puddings.


I think they are meant to be eaten with coffee, but it turns out they make a great small dessert with a scoop of ice-cream.

Look! The recipe is available for free! Make them!

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November 11th, 2013

Radish and herb salad


Just radish, watercress, chervil, parsley, and a simple vinaigrette. The radishes are heirloom radishes grown from seeds we bought from Diggers, and the herbs are from the garden (not that I’m gloating or anything).   

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November 8th, 2013

‘Vietnamese’ chicken salad


I made this a while ago using some poached chicken breast (from making stock) and some herbs from the garden.


I quick-pickled the carrot and cucumber in a basic simple nuoc mam cham (rice vinegar, fish sauce, garlic and sugar)…


…and stir fried the poached chicken until nice and crispy (something about poaching it first makes it crisp up really well in a little oil without drying out), before mixing everything with some rice vermicelli.



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November 7th, 2013

Broad beans, peas and mint


Just what it sounds like. And all* from our garden!

* Well, except for the salt, olive oil, and pepper. But not a bad effort…

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