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  1. Pea, Mint and Haloumi Fritters

    November 25, 2014 by Maria





    When I researched haloumi fritters I always thought using a whole 250 gram block would be too much (being a salty cheese), but after making them and even with the addition of parmesan cheese, I still seasoned them with salt and pepper.  When choosing my haloumi I picked one with the lowest sodium content (which was still “right up there”) and it was ‘made in Cyprus’ as it happens.  Next time around I think I might add extra mint and extra haloumi.. so it’s not exactly a budget meal.  In fact I think these would be perfect with smoked salmon and a bit of sour cream on top!  Like decadent blini’s.

    My recipe was adapted and inspired by one I saw on




    Makes 12-14 fritters

    Haloumi x 250gm, finely chopped
    Spring Onions (green part only) x 3, chopped
    Mint leaves x 12, approximately, finely chopped
    Frozen peas x 250gm (defrosted in some boiling water off the heat for a few minutes, drained)
    Eggs x 2
    Flour x 3/4 cup
    Milk x 1/2 cup
    Parmesan x 3 tablespoons
    Salt and pepper for seasoning
    Oil for pan searing fritters (I use low-aroma coconut oil
    Optional serve with sour cream and/or lemon wedges.


    -Process defrosted peas and mint with a stick blender or in a food processor, but only until just blended, not until ‘soup’ consistency.
    -Make batter by mixing together eggs and milk and then adding flour. Whisk until smooth.  Add pea mixture, haloumi, parmesan and and spring onions, stir in well and season with salt and pepper.
    -Heat a pan with oil and add spoonful’s of mixture (I had a couple of good tablespoonful’s of mixture per fritter) and fry until cooked/golden and flip.  They take about 3 minutes per side.  You can keep them warm in a low oven.  Serve with sour cream or lemon wedges and extra mint leaves.


  2. Beef, Guinness & Cheese Pies

    November 4, 2014 by Maria

    2013-03-05 14.12.12Over the weekend I saw the show dance show Celtic Legends (all the way from Ireland) so it’s put me in the mood for all things Irish.  Hence something with Guinness..and of course, a pie!  I favoured a  Jamie Oliver recipe but mine is a quicker version with various additions and omissions.  The main difference is that I used beef mince and not stewing beef.  I’ve left the actual pastry/pie part kind-of up to you because you can do anything you want really.  Just make sure you buy good puff pastry (I never use Borg’s or generic brand for example), then decide if you want to make one big pie (by using a pie dish and covering it with pastry), or individual one’s with lids.  I made pastie-style pies minus the extra washing-up by encasing the dee-lish beef & Guinness mixture entirely in pastry.  The filling was so tasty I’ve decided that next time the filling will be the true it should be!  I love pastry but it isn’t kind-to me at my age & weight.  Speaking of which, it’s my birthday on Sunday, St Patrick’s Day, hence why it made double-sense to make the pies “Recipe of the Week”.. because of the whole Guinness/Irish connection.  I love Jamie’s twist of adding cheese to the recipe too. I bought a lovely cheese, being ‘Ashgrove Rubicon Red’ (in the style of Red Leicester).  Btw, I’ve visited the Ashgrove factory in Tasmania & was impressed that they offered customers plenty of samples which helps when purchasing of course. I mention it because many cheese factories I’ve been to guard and limit their free samples.  But back to the pies, my pastry was Pampas and regretfully I can’t choose ‘All Butter Puff’ varieties these days whether Pampas or Careme.. because (you guessed it) my body isn’t 22 anymore.  But if you can easily digest rich delights like that..then go for it.  Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.

    2013-03-05 12.12.45 Beef, Guinness & Cheese Pies

    *Premium Beef Mince x 1 kilogram
    *Onions (brown) x 3, chopped
    *Carrot x 1, large, chopped
    *Celery x 1 stick, chopped
    *Mushrooms x 4 (a bit larger than a golf ball), chopped
    *Garlic x 2 cloves, minced
    *Rosemary x 1 teaspoon fresh, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
    *White pepper (powder) x 1/2 teaspoon
    *Black pepper (coarsely ground) x 1 teaspoon
    *Plain flour x 4 tablepoon’s
    *Beef stock powder x 1 tablespoon
    *Tamari or Soy Sauce x 2 tablespoon’s
    *Guinness beer x 440ml can
    *Cheddar cheese x 1.5 cups, grated
    *Puff pastry, at least 4 to 6 frozen sheets (quantity will vary depending on how you’d like to make your pies.. if you want to put meat mixture into individual ramekins, then you’ll only need pastry lids – but you may want to encase the mixture in pastry like I did.  I had leftover meat mixture, so I defrosted only the amount I’d be using, which was 6 sheets at the time, cut into 24 squares, making 12 pies).
    *Egg yolks x 2, whisked with a fork (for glazing pastry)


    -Fry onions with a pinch of salt until slightly softened, then add carrot & celery and fry for another 5 minuters, stirring occasionally.
    -Add rosemary, garlic, + white & black pepper, stir well and fry off for a couple of minutes before adding the beef mince and turning up the heat a little.
    -When beef isn’t pink anymore add flour, cook a couple of minutes and add the Guinness, and beef stock powder, then cover with a lid and let simmer for around 30 minutes (stirring occasionally) until the sauce reduces and thickens (think of the consistency you want in a pie, you don’t want it watery). Add soy sauce or tamari when the mixture is almost ready.
    -When pie filling is ready, spread it out onto a large tray so it cools down quickly.
    -When filling is at room temperature (or close to it), it’s ready to use.  You can fill up a large pie dish, top it with grated cheese and then cover it with puff pastry.  Alternatively, make individual pies, or forget pie dishes altogether and just encase the mixture in pastry, like you would a pastie or similar.  Don’t forget to add the grated cheese before topping with pastry.  Always brush pastry with egg yolk and prick with a fork before baking at 200 degree’s celcius for around 20-30 minutes.
    -The recipe makes quite a bit of filling, so you may not use it all.  Leftover mince can be made into more quick pies on another day or use it as a toasted sandwich filling or reheat and serve with mashed potatoes and veg.  It’s also freezable.
    2013-03-05 13.26.22
    2013-03-05 13.41.19

    2013-03-05 14.14.29

    2013-03-05 14.12.12

  3. Mexican Five Layer Dip

    October 28, 2014 by Maria

    Here’s a dip to feed a crowd! I call it the long-lost savoury-cousin of the English Trifle. Both require your own serving plate to eat from and both need their own glass bowl to show-off their layers. A bowl of grande dip and a bowl of sturdy (not flimsy) corn chips. Everyone helps themselves to a few chips and everyone gets to dig-deep & dollop this Tex-Mex rainbow onto their little plates. There’s enough dip to turn this into a meal like we did. Plate up some freshly cooked chicken schnitzels with shredded iceberg lettuce (and baked sweet potato if you like), dollop the five-layered dip on the side and stab a few corn chips into the mix. Nacho schnitzel’s baby. Omit the meat and you have something gluten free and vegie friendly.

    Mexican Five Layer Dip

    -435 gram tin of (Mexican-style) refried beans
    -1 onion finely chopped
    -1 clove of garlic, grated/minced
    -1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    -1 teaspoon of oil
    -1/2 teaspoon of lime juice (for bean mixture)
    -2 cups light sour cream
    -2 cups grated orange coloured cheese (try a sundried tomato flavoured cheese or Red Leicester.. the colour of these cheeses makes the dip layers appear brighter, but alternatively pick the cheese of your choice)
    -2 large avocado’s, mashed and seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice

    -1 spring onion
    -3 tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
    -1/2 cup of chopped coriander
    -juice from 1/4 of a lime
    -chopped pickled jalapeno’s to taste
    -1 teaspoon of caster sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet
    -OR alternatively, buy good quality, store bought, chunky salsa for the final layer
    -Tortilla/Corn chips to serve
    -1 see-through glass bowl for serving so you can see the five layers.. A small, but tall salad bowl is ideal


    -In a hot pan, saute onion until soft, then add garlic, saute another minute, then add ground cumin and stir.
    -Add refried beans and blend/break-down with onion/garlic/cumin mixture, combine all ingredients well, squeeze over lime juice, mix & turn off heat.
    -Scoop bean mixture onto a dinner plate, spread out with a spatula or similar so the mix can cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
    -Season sour cream with a little salt and white pepper, stir well.
    -Chop spring onions and fresh coriander, leaving the fresh tomatoes till later, it’s important the fresh tomatoes are prepared close to serving time, otherwise they go too soggy.
    -In a clean glass bowl, carefully add your first layer, being the refried bean mix, spreading it to the edges of the bowl with a spoon.
    -Add grated cheese evenly to make your second layer.
    -Dollop prepared avocado on top of your cheese layer and carefully spread it to the edges of your bowl.
    -When avocado layer is smooth and evenly spread, dollop seasoned sour cream on top and smooth out, ready for the final layer.
    -You can refrigerate this covered, up to four hours before serving. I wouldn’t add the tomato salsa layer until just before serving.
    -Make your fresh salsa by combining together the deseeded, chopped tomatoes, fresh coriander, chopped spring onion, chopped pickled jalapeno’s,lime juice & a pinch of salt (..also caster sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet).
    -If you’re using store-bought chunky salsa, wait until you’re ready to serve the dip before scooping it on top of your sour cream layer. The final layer doesn’t need to be spread out evenly, it can be piled-up in a mound so you can see the sour cream layer underneath.
    -Finish five layer dip with the salsa of your choice and serve it with tortilla/corn chips.
    -As a dinner idea, use this dip to feed a crowd. Prepare each dinner plate with a piece of chicken schnitzel and some shredded iceberg lettuce on the side (or some baked sweet potato). Put the dip in the middle of the table and allow diners to dollop the five layered dip on top of their schnitzel to make it ‘Tex Mex’. Offer a bowl of corn chips or smashed corn chips as a crunchy garnish.

    On top of the refried bean mixture, add a layer of grated cheese, then a layer of avocado, then sour cream, before finishing off with your fresh salsa layer (or alternatively buy some good, store-bought chunky salsa and put a pile of it on top, right before serving).

    Recipe inspired by & adapted from Clean Eating .

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.