Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Quinoa and Lentil salad with baby spinach and feta

 Living in our coastal town restaurants are limited and their menu rarely changes.  We rarely dine out as I prefer to cook a healthy balanced meal at home which also helps you to unwind from a sometimes stressful day.

Hence our idea of a mid week 'Im too tired to cook the evening meal' usually results in either a trip to our local Chinese restaurant which is very good or to the local Thai restaurant where the chef cooks authentic Thai food with plenty of fresh vegetables.

When we recently dined out I chose to wear a new dress and took extra care with my make up so I was feeling pretty good when arrived at the restaurant.  I noticed nearly everyone was looking at me as we made our way to the designated table and placed our order with the waitress.

I was still catching the odd eye of people smiling at me when a lovely mature lady went past and bent down to whisper "I hope you don't mind me telling you and of course this happened to me as well at the Bankstown RSL Club in front of hundreds of people; but you have caught your dress at the back into the top of your underwear.  I thought you would like to know".

Bless her kind heart as she was the only one brave enough to tell me!  Hubby and I laughed so hard and I thanked her profusely as she squeezed my shoulder and walked out into the night.  The people who had been smiling at me were suddenly now focusing on their plates of food or out the window.   It only takes one good person to make a difference.

Likewise a good healthy luncheon dish full of protein and fibre can make all of the difference to your afternoon energy levels.


                            Quinoa and Lentil Salad with Spinach and Feta

100g white or red quinoa, rinsed well

200g water

1 tspn salt

1 can cooked lentils, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion finely chopped

1/4 cucumber cubed

Handful of baby spinach leaves

Handful of cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup feta 

1/2 lemon juiced

Place rinsed and drained quinoa, water and salt into a non stick saucepan with a lid.  Stir and turn heat to medium high whilst stirring it to boiling point.  Place lid on top and turn temperature down to low.  Cook for 15-18 minutes.  Turn off heat rest for 4 -5 minutes and then take off lid and fluff up quinoa with a fork.

Mix the lentiles with the quinoa.  Add chopped cucumber, onion, cherry tomatoes and lemon juice.  Stir well.  Place baby spinach and feta on top and gently combine.  I used feta in oil so did not need more olive oil but you may like to add 1 - 2 tablespoons EVOO if your mix is a little dry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This dish makes 2 good lunch size servings or could be a side dish for 4 people.


Please tell me if you have experienced a similar episode in public, we can laugh at it together.

                                                              Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 14 February 2022

Thursday night Turkey meatballs in a creamy sauce

 Week night meals can be incredibly fun as you wind down from a stressful day of work and immerse yourself into cooking the evening meal.  On other occasions they can also be a total pain as you're exhausted and hungry with very little motivation to make a sandwich, let alone a three course meal.

Therefore Thursday night  Turkey Meatballs evolved and these are totally delightful/delicious/satisfying and incredibly welcome as well as being easy to prepare midweek.

We adopted a sweet kitten in December as a companion for our 18 mth old Poppy when she sadly lost her brother last year.  Our new kitten Coco is adorable she is so affectionate and full of energy which means sometimes Coco is very demanding of your time (there are no complaints on this matter).  

Therefore you need to move on from dinner and concentrate on the kitten.  Evening time is very precious indeed. 

 Here is Poppy on the chair with Coco on the floor.

So when you are short on time remember these Thursday Night Turkey Meatballs and create some spare time for yourself.

500g Turkey mince
1 clove garlic crushed
1 egg
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 T chopped parsley 

2 tblspns butter
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tblspn lemon juice
1/3 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all turkey meatball ingredients in a bowl.  Roll into walnut sized meatballs and lightly fry in a little olive oil until cooked.  Place into a bowl, keep warm whilst making with the sauce.
Melt the butter and fry the  garlic for 1 minute, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and cream and lightly stir until combined then bring to a simmer.  Add seasonings and return turkey balls.  Stir until combined and serve in a bowl with chopped parsley for garnish.


                                                              Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Friday, 20 August 2021

French Toast with Bacon and Maple Syrup

This is the perfect lock down lunch, quick, tasty and satisfying and just a little bit different.        

 After all, how many ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches can you eat in a week?

We all have bread, eggs, bacon, butter and maple syrup as staples in our cupboards and considering we only go out when we absolutely have too it helps to be creative with your lunch.

A few years ago close friends of ours had a French backpacker stay with them for a few months.   Once every week he would cook his version of French toast which was actually cooked with slices of brioche but I have substituted wholemeal bread because it is what we always have in our pantry.  The main variation with this recipe is that it includes cinnamon and vanilla.  If you are a real perfectionist you would sprinkle a little sugar on the melted butter before adding the egg soaked bread but, I really don't think that this is necessary and I brown the bread well.We still keep in contact with this lovely man who is also an amazingly keen gardener, he makes his own herbal tisanes and decoctions generally living a simple and stress free life.

Here is beautifully simple but amazing French toast with bacon and maple syrup for two;

3 eggs

4 pieces wholemeal bread (can substitute with brioche or white bread)

3/4 cup milk

3/4 tspn ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

butter to try

4 slices bacon

pure Maple syrup to serve

Beat the eggs with the milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl large enough to accomodate the bread slices.  Add each piece of bread, 1 at a time until it is well soaked in the egg mixture.

Heat up a large non stick frypan and add 2 tablespoons butter, when it is just sizzling gently lower in 2 slices of bread side by side.  Turn after 1 minute to seal that side, then 1 minute on the other side and keep cooking for about 2 minutes per side or until the toast is nicely browned.

In a separate pan fry the bacon slices until lightly browned.

Serve the French toast on a plate with 2 pieces of bacon and top and drizzle with maple syrup.

I also like to sprinkle with a little salt as this helps the balance all of the flavours.


Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 21 September 2020

Pizza Bianca with Prosciutto and Mozzarella in 2020


I have been absent from blogging for  a few months  due to a) being so busy at work, we are in one of the lucky industries that has been busy all year and b) we have sold our house which means I am busy packing every spare minute.                                                                                                          Working, packing and cooking takes up an incredible amount of time, so blogging has temporarily been pushed aside. 

Today is a lovely Spring day, continuously raining so it's a great day for baking.   This pizza dough    was started on Friday night and was delightful baked for lunch on Sunday along with blueberry and cinnamon scrolls.  A pleasant reprieve from packing and our house smells divine.

You really should make a Pizza Bianco to try this tasty delight.   Proving the dough over a day or two yields fantastic results.  A light and fluffy pizza base with lots of air bubbles.
You can read the dough outlined here in this blog.  I made it on Friday night, refrigerated overnight, brough to room temperature on Saturday, stretched a few times, then refrigerated again Saturday night.  The dough was brought back to room temperature on Sunday morning and cooked for lunch on Sunday.


Pizza Bianco with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

200g fine semolina flour or otherwise pulse your semolina in a food processor

300g strong white plain flour

5g yeast

10g salt

350g water at room temperature

Olive oil, to grease resting bowl and cover
3/4 cup chopped prosciutto
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Mix the dough, either in a mixer or by hand, and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with an oiled plastic cover.
Over the next few hours, give the dough a few turns and folds when you remember to, then just before you go to bed place the dough in the fridge, covered and leave to rise overnight.

The following morning, remove the dough from the fridge and leave somewhere warm, allowing it to come slowly to room temperature. Fold it a few more times over the course of the morning. At midday, oil a surface and your hands with olive oil, and line a square baking tray with baking parchment.

Remove the dough from its bowl, and stretch it out into a flat oblong. Press it into the tray and let rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 or 220C if your oven is this high. Chop the prosciutto into small cubes and sprinkle over top of the pizza base. Place the pizza and its tray in the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.

Then tgake out and sprinkle liberally with the shredded mozzarella. Put back into hot oven and cook for 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted, and turning a light brown.

Remove, let cool slightly before cutting and serve with fresh rocket or salad greens.


Do you like pizza bianca and do you find moving stressful?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 13 July 2020

Sardinian deep fried peppers with anchovies and capers

We have just had an electricity black out for over three hours in our shop which was not fun and is always a challenge.

Customers still come in to view products and the back room has no windows. The back display room holds the most items but there is only light coming through from 3 doors, none of which are external doors.  So I do the best I can, bringing samples into the front room to display them with the outside light (of which there is very little as we have a continual drizzle of rain today and overhead clouds).

It just takes more effort, but customers always need to feel special and receive good customer service when they go out of their way to come in to look at what is offered in your shop for sale.

Luckily the power has been restored which means a;  a good cup of hot tea and b; I can take customers to samples and not vice versa.

The last time we had a black out during the evening was when everyone was home and we all played scrabble by candle light.  Now that was enjoyable.

Which leads me to think about food and dinner.

I recently purchased Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark, a story and recipe book about Sardinia.
This is a lovely book and I know I have more cookbooks than most people will ever need but who can resist a good story and recipe book in one?

This is just one of Letitia's recipes and one I am so glad to add to my cooking repertoire.
I also found the recipe online here.


Deep fried peppers with anchovies and capers

500ml good quality olive oil
3 large red peppers (capsicums) deseeded and cut into eighths lengthways
8 anchovy fillets sliced lengthwise in half
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
sea salt
some fresh basil leaves to serve (I added a little pesto sauce to mix through instead)

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and fry the pieces of pepper in 3 batches until they are completely soft and just starting to colour.
Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
In a serving bowl place the anchovies, capers and vinegar as well as the peppers.  Mix through and taste before adding salt as capers can be quite salty.  Add a little cracked black pepper.
Stir well and allow to sit at room temperature for at least one hour (I was hort on time so only waited 30 mins) .  Add the basil leaves, or pesto if using and give a light toss before serving.


How do you cope during power blackouts - do you enjoy the challenge or find it frustrating? 

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

A simple but delicious Prawn and tomato Spaghetti

Driving to work this morning there was a dual utility with a cabin on the back.  I noticed first the driver, then the passenger opened and closed their doors, twice, before erratically pulling over to the kerbside.  As I passed it was obvious to see that they had left the rear door of the cabin open and upwards, luckily nothing had fallen out.

Isn't it funny how we often overlook the smallest of things and it is so lucky we have interior warning lights to let us know something is amiss with our car.      It should be the same with people.  A beeping from your ears emitting if your ear is blocked, or your pinkie finger erratically waving if you are about to have a heart attack etc ., that would take so much guess work away from the specialists.
Anyway I am glad they pulled over to close their back door before driving any further distance.

Many customers have commented how much money they have saved during the last 3 months by not eating out but cooking at home with the closure of restaurants and clubs.  A  prawn dish like this looks luxurious, tastes delicious and is a delight to enjoy with a fresh garden salad and nice crusty bread.

It is amazing how restrained we have all sensibly become these last few months, staying at home, limiting our movements to help protect us all.

I enjoy cooking in the evening after a day at work.  It is so relaxing and rewarding. 

It is always wonderful to keep frozen Australian green prawns in the freezer for nights when you just need to eat a simple but wholesome dinner.

Spaghetti with Prawns Tomato and White Wine

500g green prawns, tail on
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes halved, or larger tomatoes chopped
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper
300g spaghetti
chopped parsley for garnish
also dried fresh chilli flakes for garnish (optional)

Bring a saucepan of water to boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and stir in spaghetti.  Cook boiling for 11 minutes or until al dente.
In a frying pan (I like to use a small wok for this recipe) heat up the olive oil over medium - high heat and add garlic, swirling until it is aromatic.  Add the shallots and tomatoes, tossing or stirring them for a few minutes over medium heat, you can crush the tomatoes as they soften, then add 1/2 cup of the white wine.  Keep cooking for a few minutes then turn up heat to high and add the prawns and 1/2 cup more of white wine with salt and pepper.
 Cook for approximately 5 minutes until the prawns are just cooked through.
Drain pasta, leaving the some water attached to the spaghetti and add into the prawn dish, tossing until combined.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and/or dried chilli flakes and serve with crusty white bread and a side green salad.
What warning sign would you like your body to have for your safety?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Preserved Chilli - Preserving the Crop

We have had an abundance of Italian chillies, red, long and moderately hot.  These chilli bushes are producing for their second year and have been so prolific.  Even throughout the drought we managed to give them enough water to survive and flourish.

Gardening is always a pleasant hobby for hubby and myself .  Mind you he is so much faster with planting out seedlings or weeding and he does everything properly whereas I kind of pull at the weeds half heartedly and plant in the ground without preparing the bed properly. 

At the end of the day we both yield great results with what we plant and produce.

Likewise when we go shopping together, I will probably still be in the first aisle talking to a friend when he's already done the rounds of the supermarket, getting everything plus more than that was written on the shopping list.  I am still talking in the first aisle but now to another friend.

I think that one truly efficient person is all you need in a relationship ...

We all have different strengths and abilities.

I like to cook, and preserve.

These are preserved, fermented chillies 
which last for 12 months in the cupboard.

Preserved Chilli

500g fresh whole chillies, chopped into halves.  Removing seeds is optional.
10 garlic cloves, peeled

Place into blender or food processor and pulse a few times, you want chunky pieces, not a puree.

Add 1 tablespoon salt 
250ml olive oil.

Blend lightly until combined at a low speed.
Pour into cooled sterilised jars and label.
Make sure the chilli is below the level of oil to preserve them.

Add a spoon to your completed dishes, or on top of fried eggs. Mix with yoghurt for a dipping sauce.


Are you an avid gardener?  What are your best strength and weaknesses?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Thursday, 9 April 2020

DIY Hand Sanitiser with 70% Alchohol

We are all living in unusual circumstances with social distancing and the fear of covid19 abounds evrrywhere which has resulted in a shortage of hand sanitiser, disinfectants, latex gloves and toilet paper.   Modern history students 30 years from now will learn about the hardships we endured and the number of deaths sadly created by this disease.
Washing your hands with soap under running water is the best cleansing option but so too is a hand sanitiser with between 62 and 70% alchohol.

I denuded my parents aloe vera patch.  The cut stalks need to stand upright for 30 minutes to allow resin to drop out which can irritate your skin.  Then cut away the dark green skin tomexpose the gel like flesh inside.  This is then pureed to make an aloe vera gel.  This will store in the fridge, covered, for up for one week, you can add vitamin C powder to it to lengthen its shelf life or freeze it in ice cube blocks for up to 6 months
Then you need to procure alchohol, isopropyl or 95% pure alchohol which you can buy at the supermarket if you are lucky.

Hand Sanitiser

3.5 cups pure alchohol plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup Aloe vera gel
1 tablespoon vegetable
1 tablespoon xanthum gum
12 drops tea tree or lavender essential oil

Mix the xanthum gum and vegetable glycerine with a little alchohol until it is blended.  Then add the remaining alchohol with the aloe vera gel and blend until smooth.  Add the essential oil of your choice and then pour into a dispenser pump or bottles of your choice.

I measured the ABV to be at 70% but the alcoholmeter is not 100% accurate when other materials are incorporated with the alchohol so gove or take 1 -2% which is still in the perfect zone.  I have brewed wine, sake and mead previously so have experience in this area.

Please everyone, stay safe, stay inside and stay well.
Let me know if you make your own hand sanitiser.
Kindest regards, Merryn xx

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Battered Onion Rings

After arriving at work this morning I opened the store then dutifully turned on the Nespresso machine for my morning's burst of delicious caffeine.  The red and yellow bins needed bringing in from the kerbside so I wheeled them to the rear whilst the coffee machine warmed up.
I self consicously touched my ears to make sure my earrings were in place to discover the right one was missing! 
Only another earring loving person could understand my dilemma ...

These earrings have been with me for over 15 years so I retraced my steps, walking upstairs to the fridge, then out to the car and finally started inspecting the grass where the bins had recently been resting but all to no avail.

A  sweet man walked by and asked me what I was looking for then he started looking closely at the grass as well, understanding my loss.   We had an impromptu conversation but after 15 minutes no earring came to light and I thanked him profusely before he continued walking into his day.

I can only hope that the missing earring is still inside my house and will find out later if this is right.
Situations like these lead to the need for comfort food.
Such as homely, classic battered onion rings.

Forget the air fryer, just go straight to the deep fryer for a burst of delicous batter and oil with the added goodness of onion.
You will instantly feel better when you snack on this feel good food.  You can think about calories later, after you have relocated 👀 your earring.
P.S. Hubby found my earring on the bedroom floor when he arrived home 👍

Battered Onion Rings

1 large white onion
Vegetable oil for deep frying
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 dessertspoon white vinegar
350ml water

Place the flour and sieved bicarb soda into a bowl.
Add 200ml water to the middle and whisk until incorporated then add the extra 150ml water and keep mixing until smooth.  You may add a little more water if you like a thinner batter.
Then stir in the vinegar, cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Meanwhile peel and slice the onion into 4 -5mm round slices.
Heat up your oil to approx 180C and dip about 8 rings into the batter, removing each one and placing into the hot oil.

Deep fry for approximately 2 minutes in total, turning halfway.
Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with salt before serving.


What is your favourite comforting food?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Friday, 14 February 2020

Air Fryer Potato Chips and Sweet Potato Chips

Okay I am so glad to have finally taken the plunge and bought an Air Fryer.  Our daughter is to thank as Ms G asked for an air fryer for her recent birthday.  Whilst reading reviews on this particular model which were a positive 5 out of 5 I started to think one could be beneficial in our home.

Hubby of course was mortified, "Don't go ruining perfectly good shallow fried crispy chicken wings just because you have a new machine" he stated.

I replied "You know that you have to use a new machine every night for the first two weeks!"

Then I cooked beautifully crispy potato chips, one of his deep fried staple foods and he thought they were simply amazing.  He said "you can actually taste the potato and not the oil".

So safe to say we are now Air Fryer Converts 😊

Plus it's nice to have a new 'toy' in the kitchen one which will not only cook healthy fast food but also it is always stimulating to learn how to use a new cooking item.


Air Fyer Potato Chips

Potato Chips
4 Medium Potatoes
4 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat your air fryer to 180 degrees C for 3 minutes
Peel your potatoes and cut them into fries.  
# Mine were sliced 1.5cm high x 1cm wide by the length of the potato approx 6 - 8cm
In a bowl, toss the fries in the oil.
Place them in your Air Fryer on a 180C.
Cook for two minutes and then shake them.
Cook for a further 8 minutes and shake again.
Cook for a further 15 minutes.
For golden fries cook for another 5 minutes on 200C.
Season with salt and pepper then serve.

Sweet Potato Chips
2 large sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the sweet potatoes then slice them into chips. 
Try and keep as regular as possible so there is a consistent cooking time.
Preheat your air fryer to 180 degrees C for 3 minutes.
Put the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil and toss until well mixed.
Tip the sweet potatoes into the heated air fryer. Cook for 20 minutes, a little longer if the chips are thick.  Shake once in the middle of cooking.
Serve, with salt and pepper.


Have you discovered the joys of an Air Fryer and if so what is your favourite air fried food?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Fritto Misto di Mare

I think Italians created Fritto Misto to be a stand by meal, one which is quick and very satisfying.  Add a good handful of capers, some lemon quarters and a lovely rich aioli and it becomes sublime.  Serve with a fresh green salad as well and your guests will be impressed.

Yesterday afternoon I had a Doctor's appointment at 4.30pm.  Being tied up at work I was running 10 minutes late by the time I arrived at the doctors surgery and almost phoned to apologise for my lateness.  When I arrived, luckily there was a convenient park close by to the building.
Located just before the receptionist's desk is a large monitor whereby you enter you name and date of birth to confirm that you have arrived for your appointment.   After I signed in I was informed that I was 5th in queue!  So much for the worry of keeping them waiting.
Needless to say by the time I saw the Doctor, departed, then went to the Chemist to get a prescription, popped the prescription back in the car to get shopping bags and proceeded to the supermarket it was already after 6pm.  After scanning my items, I realised there was no wallet in my handbag and that it was probably sitting on the back seat of the car with my prescription.  The lovely check out operator assured me she would set my shopping aside until I returned to pay for the items.
It was 6.30pm and I was quite frazzled by the time I arrived home, with the groceries.

I hadn't even unpacked the shopping before our two gorgeous adult sons waltzed in the door and even though they said they were coming home on this day, we hadn't heard from them so assumed they would arrive the next day instead.

It was too hot and late to cook lasagne on this 30C day.

One thing I always keep in the freezer is frozen green prawns, tail on and off, squid tubes, baby octopus and whitebait.  These all defrost well and you cannot buy them fresh in our town.  I always buy fresh fish as there is a good variety available.
This means that when you choose to you can always cook a seafood dish.
Hence, we had a quick version of fritto misto, complete with capers, fried red chilli and shallots with lemon.


Fritto Misto di Mare

(Mixed Fried Seafood)

2 squid tubes,cleaned, scored and sliced into 1 x 2cm strips
400g prawns, shells removed but tails on and deveined
150g whitebait
200g baby octopus cleaned and cut into halves
handful of rinsed capers
lemon quarters
180g rice flour 
180g potato starch (can use cornflour instead)
salt and pepper
vegetable for deep frying

Mix the rice flour and potato starch together with salt and pepper.  
Heat the vegetable oil to 170C in a deep fryer.
Dip the pieces of seafood into the flour mix and drop about 10 pieces per time into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm whilst you fry the remaining seafood.
Fry chopped chilli and shallot in a separate small frying pan and sprinkle on top of the seafood with the capers. 
Serve with lemon quarters and a healthy green garden salad.

Do you like to be on time for your appointments too?
What is your favourite deep fried seafood?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 15 December 2019

A Christmas Breakfast - Eggs fried over top of grated cheese with herbs and chilli

A conversation with a friend the other day reminded me of a time when I was aged 9 and kept reading about kids getting their potty mouths washed out with soap in different novels.  We were a gentle non swearing family and I always wondered what it felt like getting your mouth washed out with soap because you were swearing and using foul language.  
One day I actually tried to wash out my own mouth with soap at the outside tap to see what it was like.  Needless to say it was vile!  After a little spit I kept rinsing and rinsing my mouth to get rid of the frothy taste and it actually took until the next day before my mouth returned to normal.  Everything tasted like soap.

Perhaps a simple but delightful dish like this one may have cured my soap filled mouth and taste buds.

I do not know where I found this incredibly easy Fried Egg dish but it is certainly tasty and filling.
You simply grate a little mozzarella cheese into a non stick pan, (don't worry about greasing the pan,) sprinkle with a little fresh herb such as oregano or parsley and crack two eggs on top.  As they start sizzling sprinkle a little chopped chilli, salt and pepper on top whilst you toast your bread.

Delicious and special enough for serving up quickly on Christmas morning before you start to cook the Christmas lunch.

Try not to totally cover the cheese with the egg, you should leave a little crispy edge along the side.


Tell me, did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap in your younger years?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 25 November 2019

Potatoes with Capsicum, Red Onion, Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

We have had a really tough time here lately.  Savage bush fires that have affected every one of us in the surrounding areas in one way or another.    Every one has a story to tell.  The town literally stopped for two weeks as we watched brave and heroic fire fighters control the huge flames that threatened our homes and livelihood.  The helicopters working in tandem filling their huge buckets to douse the flames while two yellow crop dusters also refilled and sprayed the area with water.  There has been one jet at times too spraying the areas with a pink fire retardent and we are very grateful and admiring that so many people and homes were saved.   It has had a draining effort on everyone.

Dealing with the white dusty smoke and embers every day, businesses closing early so that people can keep an eye on their own properties and volunteers helping to feed the evacuated people and house livestock.  Our community has always been one to pull together and this time was no exception.  People rallied to help house the homeless.  The local show grounds were a place where people could take their livestock too and also stay there themselves out of harms way.  Stock feed for animals and dinners were offered by volunteers to those that stayed to comfort their livestock/pets.

Now our water levels are getting low due to how much water was required to fight the fires and also the lack of rain.  This time last year we had twice as much rain fall as what we have received this year.  As well as the huge need for water to fight the fires, water restrictions have been brought into play and we are personally lucky that we have a huge rain tank to help us but we all have to be diligent with the usage of water.  Keeping a bucket in the shower with you to collect water and saving your clothes washing water are just some of many ideas suggested to use this 'grey' water for watering the garden.

At the end of each day however, we all still need to refuel our bodies with good wholesome fuel.
This is one of those classic dishes that compliment most meals or it can be the main star with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.  It is on the table in less than 20 minutes, perfect after a busy day.


Potatoes with Capsicum, Red Onion, Tomatoes and Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, halved then each half cut into quarters
3 cloves garlic, chopped
500g white potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2 cm cubes
1 green capsicum, seeds removed and cut into 2cm cubes
3 whole tomatoes, washed chopped and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped continental parsley to garnish

Heat up a large frying pan over medium heat and add onion, potatoes, capsicum and garlic.  Fry for about 5 minutes then add the white wine.  Fry for a further 1 minute before adding chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Add a little water and when it comes to a simmer reduce to low and place the lid on for 10 minutes.  
Remove lid and check that the potatoes are tender.  If not replace lid for another 5 minutes.
Take off lid and add the parmesan cheese to heat through.
Serve, in the pan sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Optional, add 1 chopped chilli with the vegetables if you like your dishes spicy.


Have you ever had bush fire close to you and do you like chilli with your vegetable dishes?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 28 October 2019

Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses

I still remember the very first time that I was offered quail to eat .... they were braised in a tomato sauce and so tender and juicy.  I prefer to make a bird like these ones to be the star of the dish.

Of course, like many others I declared 'it's cruel to eat such tiny birds.'   My in-laws however convinced to my try them as they assured me that the birds were fully grown and at first bite, I fell in love with this tender yet delicate bird.    It has been a life long food passion ever since then.

On another occasion I was convinced to try Squab also simmered in a tomato sauce but these just didn't appeal to me the way the cute little quail did, so when I spy quail in a supermarket, they get popped into my grocery bag and head for home to become a gourmet delight.

They are wasted on our family who tolerate quail but would prefer chicken or duck so we eat them on the nights we are dining alone.

This last week has seen some bad bush fires nearby.  Our local and volunteer firefighters are to be commended, they fight so hard to preserve homes, people and bush land (not necessarily in that order) and work tirelessly heading into a fire while we stay protected at home. I want to commend all of our firefighters, rural fire service and special emergency services who work so diligently to protect our homes.   Thank you.

A telegraph pole caught alight on Saturday afternoon and we lost power at 4pm.
Luckily the power came back on at 5.30pm so oven grilled was to be the quails cooking method.


Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Molasses

6 quail, cut down the back bone to butterfly
1/3 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup fine salt and 250ml boiling water
750ml room temperate water
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
6 peppercorns

salt, pepper
3 cloves crushed fresh garlic
Pomegranate molasses
olive oil for greasing

Firstly pour the boiling water over the sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Stir to dissolve.
Add the remaining water to cool the liquid down.
Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and leave to marinade in the brine for at least 1 hour, up to 4 hours if possible stored in the refrigerator.

Heat your grill to 180C
Grease a baking tray with olive oil.
Press the quail down firmly to flatten them on the tray, with the breast facing up.
Sprinkle each quail with about 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a drizzle of pomegrante molasses (about 1 dessertspoon per bird).  Spray with olive oil spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
Place under grill for approximately 10 minutes, rotating tray half way through.  
Check they are cooked to your liking and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Add your bottle of pomegranate molasses to the table in case you would like to drizzle with more molasses.


Have you ever eaten quail, and do you enjoy them?
Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Steamed Bao Buns with Peking Duck, Hoisin Sauce, Spring Onion and Cucumber

I told hubby this morning that last night 'I had a Dream'.

He asked me if I thought I was Martin Luther King.

This dream involved huge waves coming over nearby Burgess Beach all along the nearby cliffs, waves that just keep surging forward and everyone was trying to get to higher ground.
I was running to my parents house hoping to get them out in time, running with many others up the hill, then I woke up and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.   Luckily today is bright and sunny with a low swell, no huge surf in sight.

On a brighter note, we had chicken and leek individual pies recently and I commented that it is very English to have mushy peas and chips with your pies.  No. 2 son remarked 'I thought rain was very English to have with your pies', which is just classic, they do make you smile with these random comments.

We had a lovely Yum Cha dinner recently and these lovely light bao buns with Peking duck slices, curly spring onions, cucumber slices and hoisin sauce were on the menu. 
I just had to recreate them at home and they were a huge success.

I borrowed this recipe from Thermobliss and you can get the Thermomix instructions here.
I halved this bao bun recipe as there were only two of us eating and I cooked premarinated Luv-A-Duck peking flavoured duck breasts in a frying pan.

Steamed Bao Buns

  • 250 g warm water
  • 60 g sugar
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 520 g plain flour
  • 60 g olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 500 g extra water
  • Peking duck slices, either prepurchased or marinate and cook your duck breasts before slicing
  • Sliced spring onion
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Hoisin sauce to serve
  1. To make the bun dough, place the water, sugar and yeast to activate. Allow to rest for 5 minutes or until the mixture has turned frothy. 
  2. Add the plain flour, olive oil, salt and baking powder into the  bowl and lightly mix to combine.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Place the dough into a greased large bowl and set aside in a warm dry place to rise for 45 minutes. 
  5. Rip a piece of baking paper into strips and place over the 2 layers of the steaming trays (leaving gaps in between to allow the steam to escape). 
  6. Knead the dough on an oiled bench or board. Divide the dough into approximately 15 - 18 small pieces. Roll into balls and flatten down into a circle/oval shape. 
    Place small pieces of baking paper onto half of each flattened oval and fold over (so that the baking paper is in between. 
  7. Place the bao buns onto the lined steaming tray/s.
  8. Half Fill the steamer or steaming appliance with  hot water and place the buns on top, with a lid over top.  Allow to steam for approximately 30 minutes.
  9. Take the buns out (they will be quite wet and sticky) and serve immediately with the sliced duck, 2 pieces each of cucumber and spring onion and a spoonful of  hoisin sauce. 
  10. Sit back and take the praise of your guests.

Do you have realistic scary dreams like this one?
Do you always wake up before anything bad happens?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Italian Wedding Cookies

We deal with customers through our business for weeks on end.  Currently we are dealing with a retired school teacher from the primary school where my children attended a few years ago.  I had asked this lovely lady previously if she had taught our children but she said that she had not taught them. Today when she called into our shop our eldest son was having lunch with me as he is home for 2 weeks.  She looked at him and said "Oh, I remember you".  

Then she immediately returned to school teacher 'mode' and mentioned some children she had taught and the lessons they learned.  I think it is an honour that she remembered him.

Then she told us a story of how she was recently eating out and  at a nearby table a 2 year old was dangerously standing in his high seat whilst the mother was busy and distracted with a baby in a pram.  She said she looked the 2 year old in the eye with 'that teacher look' and motioned for him to sit and he obediently did as she suggested, from over 20 feet away.   Once a teacher, possibly always a teacher.  This made me smile so much.

Also, because we had extras at home through the week I tend to cook large family meals.
I have a tendency to add more salad dressing than any of our children would, and I had to laugh last night when the green salad was passed to our eldest son.   He smiled and stated 'This salad still has it's winter dressing on'.    Seriously....

Here is a consistently good recipe for memorable family moments.


Italian Wedding Cookies

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp or vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt


  • 2 cups icing (powdered) sugar
  • tsp or vanilla extract or almond flavour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp cream or milk, warmed

100s and 1000s, or other suitable sweet sprinkles

  1. Whisk together eggs, oil, sugar, and extract in a mixing bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Roll dough into three logs 20cm long. Chill rolls of dough for at least an hour, or freeze for 15-20 minutes.  Place cold dough logs on a chopping board and cut into 1.5cm long slices, roll roughly into balls and place on trays lined with baking paper.
  3. This makes approximately 30 cookies.
  4. Bake at 350° for about 9 minutes, or till tops are set. Bottoms will be lightly browned, but tops should still be white. Remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely.
  5. For glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk till smooth, adding enough warm cream to get a thin but creamy consistency.
  6. Dip tops of the cookies in the glaze, then top with 100s and 1000s sprinkles.

I have always admired teachers, do you too appreciate their roles in our lives?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx