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  1. Blue Cheese Dressing

    October 21, 2014 by Maria

    I have always loved a good blue cheese dressing or dip made from scratch. I used to really enjoy Sizzler’s version but Victoria did away with Sizzler years ago.  Anyway, one day (many years ago), in Brisbane (Queensland) I asked a Sizzler waitress for the basic ingredients, because they did make their dressing from scratch. I had to experiment with the quantities, but I’ll give you my version today :)

    Any good wedge of blue cheese will do, but the first time I made this recipe I used a creamy Danish blue (around $5.50) and it worked well, keeping in mind you only need around 30 to 40 grams.  Gorgonzola would be nice..or if you have a favourite, just go for it.


    -30 to 40 grams of blue cheese (I think creamier varieties mix-in easier)
    -200 grams sour cream (not a whole tub)
    -1 heaped tablespoon whole egg mayo
    -1/4 lemon (squeezed for the juice)
    -1/2 cup chopped spring onions (some states call them ‘shallots’)
    -Pinch of salt
    -Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper (you can literally see the pepper flecks in this dressing)

    -Plonk all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Use as a dip or drizzle over a prepared salad platter with robust leaves, like cos or wedges of iceberg or treviso. It’s a good dressing to have in a bowl on the side and everyone helps themselves to it. It’s a nice dressing for a potato salad or pasta salad, not much dressing is needed because it’s full-flavoured.

    I had some salad leaves and crispy, lean grilled bacon in this bowl.

  2. Cauliflower Rice

    October 15, 2014 by Maria


    As much as I love jasmine rice with Asian-style dishes, especially with curries.. now and again I substitute with cauli-rice or “cauliflower rice”.  Recently I had a guest for dinner (with type 2 diabetes), I made a Jalfrezi chicken curry and I served it on top of cauli-rice.  Firstly, to my surprise, they had no idea it wasn’t rice.  Not that I was trying to fool them!  Cauliflower rice can be like that, especially when accompanied with full-flavoured sauces.  It looks like rice and acts like rice… but without the carbs.  I used to always make my cauli-rice one way, with a food processor.. but right now I don’t have one.. so I’ll share how to make it with and without a processor.. but with exactly the same results.  My photo’s here are from my archives and I’m puzzled as to why I deleted recent pic’s of where I prepared cauli-rice without a food processor!?!  I showed my knife skills!?  Hopefully my explanation/instructions will suffice.

    Cauliflower Rice

    FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD –*Half a cauliflower (cut into florets) .. if washed.. must be dried well.. no water should be left on the cauli. Fill a microwave safe container with the florets.

    NON FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD — * Half a cauliflower (exactly as above), but then with a sharp knife, cut/slice florets, ie. almost shave-off slices, then cut them, so your pieces of cauliflower fall into piles .. like piles of rice grains. Some will be smaller than others and this will require some patience  but it doesn’t take too much time.  Pretty soon you will have piles of cauliflower ‘grains’ that you can pile into your microwave safe container. It’s important that the cauliflower grains are dry.


    FOR BOTH METHODS:  Cover cauliflower with a microwave safe lid, I don’t recommend plastic.. I have a special Tupperware container. so the lid is ‘raised’ a bit.. and not completely flat.. so it doesn’t matter if the bowl is over-filled a bit. The cauliflower will be microwaved for 5 minutes. Plastic wrap won’t withstand that kind of heat usually, so some other microwave safe lid will be needed and ideally it shouldn’t push down onto the cauliflower. You want a snug-fitting lid.

    NON FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD-After five minutes, remove the cauliflower and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then it’s ready to serve. Some like to stir through butter, salt and pepper .. I think if you have a nice, saucey main meal, you don’t need to add anything.  Cauliflower rice will keep refrigerated in a container for about 5 days.

    FOOD PROCESSOR METHOD – As above.. but after taking resting period (post microwave), put the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse for 1 or 2 seconds and no more, otherwise it’ll just turn into ‘moosh’) want the texture adn appearance of rice grains… and then it’s done!

  3. Yoghurt and Semolina Lemon Syrup Cake

    October 7, 2014 by Maria

     Lemons don’t really go out of style. Savoury or sweet, they add a zingy lift to so many recipes. And to think I was anti-lemon as a teenager. I wouldn’t have it with fish and even the smell of lemons in anything baked put me off. Go figure?

    If you like moist cakes – you have to try this winning recipe. It. Is. Delicious.  And I hope you all have chopsticks lying about in your kitchen drawers somewhere? You only need one for this cake (for the holes). The syrup is a cinch to make and the other additions of yoghurt and semolina make the cake quite ‘cafe-style’.. like something you’d pay for by the slice! This recipe is inspired by a mini-flourless-orange cake I one purchased for $7.50 (half price with a coupon.. a bargain in commercial terms). The orange peel bits were too prominent and bitter for my liking, but my guests really enjoyed it. I was too busy to bake that day. I think it’s a great cake to make if you need to bring dessert or sweets somewhere.. even a bake sale? When serving, if you want to add cream… then by all means, do so!

    In case it isn’t obvious, yolks & whites separated. Can you tell I had one particularly fresh egg and the rest were not so fresh?

    Yoghurt & Semolina Lemon Syrup Cake
    -1 cup of plain yoghurt (280g) -not the sweetened kind
    -1 cup of semolina
    -1 cup of self raising flour (+extra for ‘flouring’ baking tin after greasing)
    -1 cup of caster sugar
    -4 eggs separated
    -250grams of ‘room temperature’ butter (+extra for greasing baking tin) I used softened butter in a tub as opposed to the harder ‘stick’ of butter in blocks.
    -1.5 to 2 tablespoons of lemon rind, finely grated
    -1 x chopstick! (Esential tool.. not an ingredient)!
    -1/3 cup lemon juice
    -1 cup caster sugar
    -Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius, or if you have a fan forced oven – 160 degrees. Grease and flour a deep, round 20cm cake pan. A fluted baking pan is ok too, being nice & deep. I turn my buttered/floured pans upside down over the sink and tap the base to remove excess flour.
    -You’ll require two bowls. One for beating egg whites & the other for the main mixture. It’s better to start with beating your egg whites before anything else. You’ll start with clean and dry beaters, ensuring you get soft peaks and there’s no need to wash the beaters when going onto the next step. So, beat the egg whites to soft peaks.
    -In another bowl, beat together sugar, butter & lemon rind until light & fluffy (I used an electric mixer – you could do it with a fork, but it would require a bit of ‘elbow grease’)!
    -Beat egg yolks into the butter/sugar mixture.
    -Stir in self-raising flour, yoghurt & semolina.
    -Fold egg white mixture into other mixture, in two batches.. ie. pour half of your fluffy egg whites in.. fold & stir (with a clean, dry wooden spoon) – then pour in the rest of your egg whites and fold some more.
    -Spread cake mix into your prepared cake pan, place on an oven tray and put into preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test cake with a chopstick or skewer after 50 minutes.
    TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS: If centre isn’t cooked & the top of your cake seems ‘golden enough’ – place some foil loosely over the top and continue baking… and/or… lower the oven shelf your cake is on.. OR.. If you started with a too-hot oven like I did and the cake has risen too quickly and the tops looks like it won’t take another 10 or 20 minutes more, turn the oven off! Let the cake rest 10 minutes with the oven door slightly open and then turn it onto a cake plate (or generous sized dinner plate). Blitz the cake in the microwave on high for 1 minute! Let it sit for a few minutes. Test the centre of the cake again. I wouldn’t recommend more than two blitzes! Letting it rest (and continuing the baking this way) is key. Some may cringe at the microwave idea.. but it saved my cake!
    -Combine the caster sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan & stir over a medium heat. Stop stirring when the sugar seems to be dissolved. Watch it carefully until it starts to bubble (boil) – and remove from heat without stirring.
    -Pierce your cake all over with a chopstick! At least 30 to 40 holes.
    -Pour the syrup over your hot cake slowly allowing it to ‘soak in’. Let cake stand at least half an hour before cutting and serving. Delicious on its own or with whipped cream!

    I put at least 40 holes in this! Metal skewer holes may be less visible, but this way the cake drinks-in more of the syrup and you get no ‘run off’ over the edge of your plate. The syrup is ideally all for the cake, not your working surface (bench)! Somehow the holes become less visible after the syrup goes on and the cake has time to sit.

    I still had the ’round’ of baking paper under my finished cake.

  4. Cheese Scones

    September 30, 2014 by Maria

    Have you ever watched a cooking show, only to pause it and then make the recipe immediately (while the show is still on pause)?  No?  Yes?  That’s what happened to me when making these scones (for the first time). I was suddenly inspired and had a burst of cooking energy. I still ‘tweaked’ the recipe to suit my tastes & tweaked it again when I made them on another day. For eg. I use actual mustard instead of mustard powder.. I also garnish with paprika & changed the quantities a little. Oh..and something I found strange was how the TV recipe differed from the website version. I had taken quick notes as the show’s presenter prepared the scones.. writing things down exactly as it was demonstrated on TV. But the online version (which made reference to the very program I was watching) – offered a slightly different recipe. Apparently this is not uncommon.  Anyway, so this recipe was inspired by some baking I saw on ‘Tamasin’s Weekends’, a British cooking show from Tamasin Day-Lewis (filmed in 2001 but it came to me one day, courtesy of digital television). Tamasin happens to be the sister of actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Both of them are the offspring of a poet and an actress. A bit of ‘Day-Lewis’ trivia for you.  But on a final note.. these scones are very tasty (especially with cheese in the dough and on top of the dough too) and admittedly I’ve enjoyed them as a meal with tinned tomato soup too.
    Cheese Scones
    Makes about 10 to 12

    -2 cups self raising flour
    -2 cups grated extra tasty cheese (the sharper the better)
    -50 to 60 grams of butter (about 3 tablespoons) cut into pieces
    -2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
    -2 teaspoons hot English mustard
    -1 pinch cayenne pepper or chilli powder
    -2/3 cup milk
    -1 teaspoon baking powder
    -1 pinch salt
    -1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon of dried
    -(Optional) Couple of pinches of sweet Hungarian paprika
    -Soup… (or even tinned tomato soup to serve as a meal)
    -Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius (or 190 if fan forced)
    -In a bowl rub butter into flour
    -Add salt, cayenne pepper or chilli powder, fresh thyme & mustard, mix in well
    -Add two thirds of the grated cheese (leaving the remainder for your topping) and mix again
    -Add milk gradually as you form a dough (go by your instincts, leave a little milk out if you think you have enough or add a little extra if your dough is not wet enough)
    -Be careful not to overwork your mixture because it’ll cause your scones to be like rocks
    -Roll out dough onto a floured work surface. It doesn’t have to be pretty or precise. You need the dough to have about 2 to 3cm height before you start cutting out rounds.
    -I use an oil spray lid as my cutter. Push straight down & try to avoid turning the cutter left and right
    -Line a tray with baking paper and place scone dough rounds on top, sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese and sprinkle with sweet paprika if you desire (not too much otherwise it’ll burn)
    -Bake for around 12 minutes (until cooked through)
    -Best eaten soon after baking and preferably on same day too. If eating the next day.. ‘zap’ them for a few seconds in the microwave to warm them and ‘refresh’ them. Store covered out of the fridge.
    -These scones are lovely with tomato soup as a meal – or any soup actually.

  5. Baked Fish with Lemon, Parsley and Parmesan Crust

    September 23, 2014 by Maria

    This week we visit FISH.. something I should eat lots more of (and I tend to get my fix with salmon and avocado sushi handrolls).  Last week I was blessed to have dinner at a friends placed and I was served delicious pan-fried flathead.  Oh what joy! You could use flathead for this recipe actually.  When I first made this lemon, parsley & parmesan crusted fish, it wasn’t with the intention of putting it on my website.  But since it was so yummy I had to share it with you. I usually always photograph anything I cook.. even if it’s one or two mobile phone photo’s. So today you only get my three mobile phone photo’s but hopefully they’ll give you a general idea because we all know what a picture’s worth?  ;)

    (Below: Ready for the oven…)
    Baked Fish with Lemon, Parsley and Parmesan Crust

    -3 or 4 firm, skinless/boneless white fish fillets, around 200 to 250grams in weight each, use ‘Ling’ aka Rockling or John Dory, Orange roughy or Monkfish (I made this recipe for three fillets, but it will stretch to four at a push)
    -1 cup of panko breadcrumbs (or homemade breadcrumbs, the coarser texture is needed for the crust)
    -1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
    -1/3 cup of fresh, grated parmesan cheese (buy grated parmesan from the fridge section of your supermarket because the powdery, non-refrigerated parmesan isn’t suitable for this recipe)
    -1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
    -3 tablespoon’s of olive oil for the crust
    -1 tablespoon oil for the baking tray (I use refined, low aroma coconut oil)
    -2 cloves of garlic for the baking tray (or some garlic infused olive oil)
    -Little lemon wedges to serve
    -Preheat oven to 200 degree’s celcius.
    -Combine all of crust ingredients in a bowl (leave out the oil and garlic).
    -Peel garlic cloves and slightly bruise each clove, so it breaks apart a bit (I used a mortar and pestle, but the flat side of a large knife will suffice).
    – Put a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt onto a clean baking tray, and grip a clove of bruised garlic in each of your hands..and start rubbing and smearing the oil around the tray using the garlic as a paintbrush of sorts. This lubricates the tray of course but will also mildly infuse some garlic aroma into your fillets while they’re cooking.
    -Discard all visible pieces of garlic, you don’t want any pieces burning on the tray.
    -Evenly lay out the fish fillets onto the baking tray.
    -Top each fillet with a third or a quarter of the crust mixture (depending on how many fillets you have). Press down on the crust with your fingers and try to get it mostly on the fish and not on the baking tray.
    -Put fish in preheated oven for 15 minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked through and your crust should be golden. Serve with a little wedge of lemon.
    -I also served this with pan-seared broccolini, dusted in dukkah, some mashed potatoes, peas and corn. But you can serve it with any sidedish you like. Potatoes and salad is an ideal combo.

    Some lovely geraniums I spotted …not connected to my fish dish in any way!

  6. Portuguese Custard Tarts

    September 16, 2014 by Maria

    It is said that these tarts were invented by Portuguese Catholic monks many years ago when they had to find ways to use excess egg yolks. Apparently egg whites were in demand for the starching of nuns habits & also needed when making ‘port’.  They are also known as ‘Pastel de Nata’ (singular) or “Pasteis de Nata” (plural) in Portugal.  They’re surprisingly easy to make and would impress guests or a crowd if you had to take a plate somewhere.  Be warned however, blink and they’ll disappear!

    Portuguese Custard Tarts
    (Makes 12)

    -1 x 3 pack of Pampas Butter Puff Pastry (ie. 3 frozen sheets in a pack)
    -4 egg yolks
    -3/4 cup milk
    -300ml cream
    -2/3 cup caster sugar
    -3 heaped tablespoons cornflour
    -1 to 1.5 vanilla bean/s (seeds scraped out) or 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste or extract (not essence)
    -1 strip of lemon peel, 5 or 6cm in length
    (I think shredded lemon rind is more intense because the lemon oils are released, so use 1/3 teaspoon only if you want to use your lemon rinder gadget)
    -Combination of plain flour & icing sugar to use underneath pastry (so it doesn’t stick)
    -Oil for muffin tray (I use low aroma, refined coconut oil)
    -Optional but very traditional & lovely extra: icing sugar to caramelise on finished tarts!

    -Put pastry sheets on kitchen counter/table to defrost
    -Preheat oven to 180c or 170 (if fan forced oven)
    -Grease your muffin tin with oil
    -If you’re using vanilla bean or beans, make sure to ‘deseed’ first before you start your custard
    -Prepare your strip of lemon peel
    -In a medium-sized saucepan mix the sugar, cornflour & egg yolks over a low heat until well combined
    -Add vanilla and lemon peel and slowly add milk & cream (I combine both of these & just pour while whisking)
    -Keep stirring/whisking custard well until mixture boils & thickens a little (it’ll start to form big bubbles)
    -Remove custard from heat & immediately cover with a piece of baking paper so a skin doesn’t form on top of your custard. The proper way to do this is by making a
    ‘cartouche’).. which will mean your baking paper is round..and fits your saucepan nicely (of course it doesn’t have to be exact). If you’d like to learn how to make a cartouche.. here is an easy 1.5 minute video online! I prefer a cartouche with baking paper than cling film food wrap on top of custard. I don’t like the idea of the plastic film in direct contact with my hot food.
    -While custard is cooling, dust your work surface with a combo of plain flour and icing sugar
    -Cut (or ‘press-out’) four rounds into each pastry sheet using a large soup mug or something similar. I used a big milkshake cup. An ordinary drinking glass might not make rounds that are big enough (See my website photo’s for pic of my ‘cutter’)
    -Place (& gently mould) a pastry round into each muffin cup & divide custard into the raw pastry cups
    -Bake tarts for 20 to 30 min’s – & keep an eye on them. When the custard has risen to ‘puffy heights’ and some of the tops ‘brown’ a little, they are ready. Mine took approximately half an hour. They’ll come out of the oven looking like you have puffy custard, but the custard will shrink back a bit like a deflated souffle.. so don’t be disappointed… it’s normal!
    -Optional but very traditional & special ‘extra': Sprinkle icing sugar onto the top of each tart.. be generous! I have a cooks torch (like a flame gun!), so if you have one too then ‘torch’ the sugar (ie. caramelise it) until it melts & goes very dark brown.. careful not to make them too black. A little ‘scorched sugar’ colour is traditional & it doesn’t ruin the taste of the tart. I’ve not tried placing these under a hot grill before to melt the sugar. There is a risk you could burn the edges of your pastry. However, you could always cover the edges of your tarts with a little foil (as fiddly as it sounds) to prevent them from burning & then place icing-sugar covered tarts under a hot grill.. until the sugar is bubbling & dark brown. Remove the foil edges before serving of course. I bought my cooks torch at a speciality kitchenware shop.
    -If you’re not going to caramelise the tops of the tarts, then simply dust with icing sugar for presentation.